First Time Gate Guarding – Days 75 – 78

Day 75

I was thinking this morning about a drinking game we used to play in college called “I Never.”  The way it works is each person takes a turn stating something they have never done and anyone who HAS done it has to take a drink.  No one is allowed to ask followup questions and explanations can be volunteered but are never required.  The game starts as fun and relatively harmless when it starts (never had a parking ticket, never been to Vegas etc), but as the alcohol flows and people loosen up you can learn some interesting things about people.   The trick by the way is to pick something you haven’t done that you think other people have.  That’s what makes it fun.  So because things are still slow (6 days left!!) I thought I would list all the things that are off the table for me since  becoming a full timer.

  • I never saw a grizzly bear in the wild
  • I never went to Alaska
  • I never walked on a glacier
  • I never saw a bald eagle in the wild.
  • I never stood inside a giant waterfall.
  • I never watched a full moon rise over the ocean.
  • I have never been to New Orleans.
  • I have never been to a rally.
  • I have never seen wild horses.
  • I have never heard coyotes.
  • I have never  touched a Redwood Tree.
  • I have never been to Lake Tahoe.
  • I have never been to Hearst Castle.
  • I have never seen the Rose Bowl Parade.
  • I have never seen an Intaglio.
  • I have never been to Quartzsite.
  • I have never been to Tombstone.
  • I have never visited a plantation.
  • I have never been to Wall Drug.
  • I have never soaked in a hot spring.

There are more, of course, but those are the ones that easily come to mind.  I can’t wait to see what we can knock off the list next.  It might make the game harder, but I think I can live with that.

Oh, and I forgot; I have never seen a road runner!  I guess I can mark that one off the list as well.

Our friend was preening the other day for his girlfriend. I never saw one all fluffed up like this before. He spent a long time, fixing his feathers.  It was pretty cute.

 

Day 76

I’m feeling pretty groggy as I attempt to change my sleep schedule.  I am now going to bed at 1:30am and getting up around 9am, with 5 days left that’s pretty close.  Since we are going to be traveling the next month or so, I found a place somewhat nearby that sells wood and Lee left as soon as I woke up to pick it up.  Texas, in general, is a pretty good place to buy wood, and Arizona is, in general, not, so we are stocking up.  I found a guy on Craigslist who appears to have well seasoned and split oak and mesquite for $15 a wheelbarrow or 3 for $40, which is a pretty good deal.  Wood prices vary wildly from place to place, and it’s not always based on the availability of the wood.  Demand for wood also comes into play, so April in Texas is a good combination.  Plus we love the way mesquite smells when it burns. As an added bonus there was a haircut place in the town Lee went to and he finally got a haircut.  I know, it’s his hair and I shouldn’t care, but I find long hair on him a little disconcerting.  Too many years together where he had a very specific hair cut.

Oh, and the paperwork for Amazon is complete, so we are on the list for Campbellsville, KY!  It doesn’t appear that they are going to have any work kampers in Texas, which is a little disappointing.  The idea that we could do Amazon in Texas and then start gate guarding is appealing.  There was high demand for the Texas locations from work kampers and we saw help wanted signs at the distribution center in San Marcus all through the holiday season and beyond, so we were a bit surprised to hear that.  Maybe it was the lack of decent campgrounds in the area?  Since Amazon pays for your site, to some extent they own issues that arise from those stays.  I’m sure word on why will get out though, it’s a pretty small community.  Since many of those people won’t necessarily want to travel back east for the season some of them could spend that time gate guarding which would increase supply of employees and drive down daily wages.  There are a ton of ifs in that statement, but the important point to realize in gate guarding in particular is availability of people who want the jobs (along with oil prices)  absolutely drives the amount that companies are paying.

We have seen positions ranging from $125 a day on the low-end to $300 a day on the high-end, although right now the average seems to be $150-175. As the temperature gets hotter though, and snowbirds start to head north we are seeing wages go up. Once you are locked into a contract you are locked into that rate and it’s too small of a hiring community to be jumping around for a better deal.  You could try it of course, but I wouldn’t.  Either way the wages aren’t as high as an Amazon position, but the work is also much easier and there are vacancies year round, so you wouldn’t be limited to working just the holiday season.

While Lee was gone our account manager and ranch owner stopped by.  It has been a couple of weeks since I have seen either of them, so I took the time to thank both of them for the opportunity.  They both thanked me for the great job we have done, and the account manager said to be sure and contact her when we were ready to work again.  It’s really nice having a work option that isn’t tied to a particular season, and something we both find palatable.  She also mentioned wages were going up and hopefully that trend will continue into next year.

Day 77

I thought I was making good progress on changing my sleep schedule, but that came to a halt last night.  I went to bed a little after midnight then slept for 20 minutes and was wide awake.  I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t, so I finally got up and read a book.  I was near the end, it was a good book, and when I was done I saw it was past 3am.  Still awake, I took a couple Tylenol PM’s and slept until 11am.  I needed to sleep, but now I am back to the drawing board which changes things around.  The weekend traffic has been non-existent so we took the day and just chilled. Lee watched John Wayne movies (yes he is a huge fan of westerners and The Duke in particular) and I wrote a bit and read.

One of our readers was kind enough to let me know I had misspelled dessert several times in the cookbook, and I was trying to figure out how to handle that.  The Kindle version can be updated pretty easily, for an additional $9.99, the hard copy for an additional $5.99, but the iBooks version cannot be updated at all.  The only way to fix that one is to delete the book and resubmit for approval.  Since the approval process worries me, I may just have to leave it in the iTunes version, but that bums me out.  The whole thing bums me out actually, because that is a stupid mistake to make.  Spellcheck didn’t catch it because desert is a legitimate word, and obviously my copy editor (Lee) didn’t catch it either.  I know many people would say “leave it” because of the additional cost, heck that was Lee’s take on it, but leaving a known error out there isn’t really in my nature.  Don’t get me wrong, I know this blog has spelling and grammar errors despite my our efforts, but a blog audience (at least in my mind) is a little more forgiving.  After thinking it through I am going to bite the bullet and fix what I can.  I don’t know if Kindle allows for free downloads of new versions like iTunes, but if it does, a new version is out there.

Day 78

The weather has gotten really warm, well over 90 every day, and there are so many butterflies out it’s crazy.  I have never seen so many in an area where there are hardly any flowers but they are abundant.  When you walk outside they land on you and when I sit outside they land on me as well.  With the butterflies are a ton of new birds and the most exciting for us was two pairs of scissor-tailed flycatchers.  We have never seen these before and they were having a field day eating all the bugs.

Lee took this one right before it flew away

And this one. Great “Bird on a wire” shot

Day 79 

Last full day.  Our relief is coming tomorrow, and we are definitely ready to leave.  I’m looking forward to getting back to my regular posts that are based more on when things happen than a daily accounting.  I think it’s important for some jobs to give a day by day description but when things are slow as they have been I know its all a bit tedious.  So I will just leave you with our final tracking sheet and look for a summary of the experience, which will show an overview of all of the numbers.

 


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 also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 72 – 74


Day 72

Here are last week’s figures, and as you can see, it was another really nice week. If it hasn’t become clear, this job really suits us when the pace is reasonable and we have lots of free free time.  Now that we know the spikes in traffic are temporary, and there are more light days than heavy days, we both think it’s a good choice for future winter months.  There aren’t many work kamping jobs in the winter that pay well, so this (for us) is a good choice.  It’s especially good if you have an additional means of earning revenue while you are taking the job, or projects/hobbies that you want to devote time to.  We have more than covered our costs, and had the opportunity to get lots of other work done.  For us it’s definitely been a good deal and aside from camp hosting our favorite  work-kamping jobs we have done thus far. (It improves significantly if the rate goes up. Two years ago I was seeing blogs where people were routinely making $200-$250 per day, but the drop in oil prices changed that. Most of them are $150-$175 per day now, but yesterday I saw one listed at $250 per day, so hopefully things are on the upswing, and next winter we can do the same thing for twice as much money. – Lee)

I did want to mention that although we are on the lookout for rattlesnakes we haven’t seen any.  One of the guys working on the site said he killed a baby a couple of days ago and that gave us pause.  The young rattlesnakes are far more dangerous because they cannot control the amount of venom that comes out and so they are actually more deadly.  Our water guy came today and he had a pair of really cool boots on and when I complimented him he said they were snake boots.  They look like cowboy boots, but the top part is two layers of heavy canvas with an absorbent pad between them. If you git hit by a snake, the pad absorbs the venom, which is a pretty amazing invention. Very cool, but not so good when I found out they had to be thrown away after one bite.  Apparently the venom could get in the lining and if the boots were wet and you had an abrasion the venom could get into your body and make you sick.  Serious business. (Still, I would rather but another $300 pair of snake boots than spend between $10,000 and $150,000 to treat the snakebite. In case you’re interested, in my mind, the worst day imaginable is to be chased, by a bear, into a rattlesnake. – Lee)

On a completely different note, I also had my much anticipated Facetime conference with my favorite author Michelle Sagara West. There were three main reasons I wanted to have this call.  First, to thank her for how much her books have meant to me.  Second, to see what she was like in person, and third (and foremost) to ask her about her writing process.  Since she lives in Toronto, Canada she was not very familiar with the full time RV lifestyle, so we didn’t talk much about it, but I did tell her the story of how when we were downsizing I was so upset about losing my library of her books and how Lee found space for them in the RV.  Of all the books in my library, which included books I had kept from childhood, I chose hers to take with me, and I even showed her where they were in the cabinet so she could see I wasn’t kidding about that.

I have been an avid reader since I was 5 years old, and since I was an only child for the first 12 years of my life, and socially awkward, books were my solace.  Even after I developed more outside activities, I maintained my love of reading and have easily read a few thousand books in my lifetime.  In that context, it is no small thing for me to consider her my favorite author.  It’s hard to communicate that though, without coming across as a total “fan girl”, so I used that story as a way of showing her how much her work meant to me.  We left that topic quickly enough and I went through my list of questions about her process.  She was extremely generous with her time (the 30 minute call ended up being 90 minutes) and she answered all of my questions, and then some.  We also got to talk about characters in her books and a couple of times when she quoted them I actually got chills.  Nothing quite like hearing about character motivation from the person who created the character.  Extraordinary.

Towards the end I felt comfortable enough to talk a little bit about the writing I have done in this blog and my attempts at writing non-fiction, which was not something I thought I would be doing.  It was always my intent to try my hand at fiction writing once we went full time, and I was a little concerned that my foray into the nonfiction world might make that more difficult.  Actually she seemed very interested in that and talked quite a bit about how the skills I had learned and the “voice” I had found writing the blog would serve me in the fiction world as well.  As Michelle said, “Fantasy books may not be real but they are true,” and that comment really spoke to me.  The last 2-1/2 years of writing this blog has allowed me to find my voice, but it has also taught me how to tell my version of the truth.  It didn’t happen overnight, but my favorite posts, and generally the ones people seem to respond to the most, are always extremely truthful, and often about a painful event. If I had jumped right in and just started writing a fantasy novel I don’t think it would have been nearly as good without the experience and feedback I have gained here.

It truly was a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad that I had it.  As usual a series of “random” occurrences led to me having the experience at all and as usual I believe those occurrences,  rather than being random,  actually led me here.  Perfect experience at the perfect time and I know it will stay with me forever. Who could have imagined I would have it living in an RV at the end of a long, dusty Texas farm road while gate guarding.  Amazing world we live in.

Day 73

We received a phone call from our coordinator this morning and she said she found our replacement and they will be here March 30th, a full day earlier than we expected!  The way this will work is we will transfer our iPads, paperwork, vests, and sensors to them and then give them a little training.  Since the couple have gate guarded before, that will mainly be around the computer portion, but they can certainly use paper (like we did) until they get comfortable.  The only thing that might be a little challenging is the physical swap out of rigs.  There is plenty of room beyond the gate we can use, but the section we are in is pretty small.  Plus there is the disconnecting and reconnecting of power, sewer, and water and that all will take a little time.  We are very excited to get that extra day, though and when I went and checked the campground where our friends will be at they actually had one opening during that time period.  So we went ahead and booked it (since it’s a weekend) and if we don’t make it the first day we will just eat the $20.  Now we have 7 full days left and we had better get cracking.

That’s what I meant by time gets away from you when you are not in travel mode.  It feels like you have all the time in the world and you don’t want to start prepping too soon, but if you leave too many things undone it can cause unnecessary stress on moving day.  Thankfully we are stocked up on food, the taxes will be completely taken care of on Friday, and I finally decided on a book solution for the next round of recipes.  I enjoy trying new recipes, so I have several I have collected, but they are sitting on the desk because I didn’t have a program to put them in.  Last night I was finally able to find a free Adobe InDesign template and downloaded it to play around a little.  That program is NOT easy, and although we have the tutorials, I am really just not interested in the amount of work it would take me to get up to speed.  Plus there are rules around templates and fonts for publishing that are complicated and I read some stuff about how much work putting something into an eBook ready format can take.  It’s a huge undertaking and since Blurb does all that for me, I am just not ready to go down that path at this point.  At least not for the recipe book format.  I also learned that some of the things I don’t like about Kindle Publishing are going to exist regardless of what program I use to create the material, so long story short, for me, at this point I am going to stick with what works.  The major downside of course is the inability to do revisions without paying $4.99 a pop, so I will just be very careful that I don’t need any.

The main reason I have made this decision is it is not lost on me that very soon I will have a significantly reduced amount of free time.  That is a good thing, we want to be out there living our life, but I will still need to squeeze time to write the blog, process what I hope with be tons of pictures, and write the memoir I am working on. Those activities alone could easily be 3-4 hours a day if I let them.  It’s times like these though that I am really grateful I write this blog.  Believe it or not, I tend to be a bit of a homebody and even though we live in a rolling home the desire to just sit and veg is still sometimes very strong.  Being in a beautiful place with things to do counteracts that feeling, but some days the desire to have something interesting to blog about really motivates me to get my butt off the couch and go out and do things.   Just because you live in a home on wheels doesn’t mean you don’t feel like a slacker some days.  The pace of travel can sometimes make going anywhere less desirable, for me at least.  My love of photography and the fun of writing about the cool places really does motivate me in those cases. Plus we will be with our friends Deb and Steve and Deb is all about seeing what’s over the next hill.  Her enthusiasm is contagious, if a little exhausting, and I know she won’t stand for me being a total sloth when we are with them.  Love ya Deb!

Day 74

I have been trying to slowly change my sleep schedule in preparation for leaving and that is working out pretty well. We have had zero traffic after 1am and that traffic has been of the wrong gate variety.  Once the workover crew left they took their sign with them, and we are back to getting several cars stopping because they are looking for the ranch down the road.  I went to sleep at 3am a couple of days ago and last night at 2:30am.  This morning I was wide awake around 9am and decided to get up in the hopes it would be easier to get to sleep earlier.  This shift in sleeping patterns also necessitates less “free time” for both of us.  We actually enjoy having some time apart (not that easy to accomplish in an RV) and I have no doubt there will be an adjustment period as we get used to being with each other again constantly.

It’s not so much being together as it is sharing resources.  We do have a laptop which I can use, but both prefer the main computer and new and improved desk and as you know if you’ve been reading along sharing that resource is an ongoing source of tension.  When we are in a place with a beautiful outside, things to do, and nice weather it’s less of an issue, because neither one of us wants to be on the computer, but when rain or conditions drive us inside the computer is our default entertainment.  We have always had this issue even when we were young and it ultimately led to every person in our house having their own computer/desk area.  And we did try to address this head on, but using the laptop at our kitchen table just isn’t as comfortable as the desk with the huge monitor. I know, these are first world problems, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

We also started our morning by talking about Amazon. We received our preliminary offer letters and are trying to decide what type of job we prefer.  There are several to choose from and the information provided is somewhat limited. Disclaimer: I am not a spokesperson or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This is just what I have found to be true in my experience.   It is truthful to the best of my knowledge, but any of it could change at any point with or without warning, please keep that in mind.   These are very physical jobs and although we are relatively young and healthy we aren’t kids anymore.  We are trying to pick the jobs that will hopefully go easiest on our “weak” areas.  Not so easy with the information we have.  We also have to fill out some paperwork, sign and scan it, and send a separate email with our preferences.  Mid shift (which we wanted) does not appear to be on the list of choices, so I made a phone call to get some clarification. Waiting to hear back before we finalize.

As much as I am looking forward to trying another one of the common work kamping positions, I know enough now to be somewhat nervous about it.  Thankfully our friends Kelly/Bill, Jim/Diana, and Linda/Steve have all done it, so I have people to talk to.  For example, it’s possible not all jobs are the exact same shift.   The Inbound jobs and the Outbound jobs are staggered by 1/2 hour so if Lee and I inadvertently chose one Inbound and one Outbound Job we would be onsite for extra time with no pay.  Some people wouldn’t care, but for us this is kind of a big deal which means we need to select jobs in the same general category.  None of that information was in the paperwork we received though, so I am trying to get clarification from our contact prior to making a final decision.  Personally I hate when information like that is left out when you are making a decision.  I know they are trying to simplify, but those types of things matter to some people. We also heard that weekend days have an additional pay differential over regular days.  Again, that information was not included in the information we received, and since we really don’t care if we work weekends, that would be important to know.  The point of all this is with any of these work kamping jobs, read other people’s accounts, talk to people who have done it if possible, and don’t assume all the pertinent information is provided.  That has not been our experience in any of the many jobs we have done up to this point. For what it’s worth, I generally don’t think people are hiding information on purpose, they just aren’t that great at communicating or maybe they don’t understand the types of things that are important to mobile/seasonal workers.

 


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 also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 69 – 71


Day 69
The last couple of weeks have been really great, and the days are just flying by, in a good way.  The weather is beautiful, the pace is nice, and there is plenty of downtime for doing other things here in the rig.  We did see a small spike today in traffic as they are taking down the work-over rig, but nothing major.  And we finally got some solid info on the schedule.  It turns out there are numerous wells in this area, but only two fracking crews.  So you have to wait your turn for them to show up to start the fracking process which is what is causing the delay.  That’s great for us, of course, and there is a very good chance we will go all the way to the end of our tour here before they start the frack. Since we have a list of things we want to do before we leave, it’s extra good news.  This always happens to us when we stay in one place for awhile.  We have a list of things we want to get done and about two weeks out we are like, “Oh crap” we better get on that!  Nothing too serious, but we like to take care of as much as we can on non-travel days.

I had an opportunity today to catch up on some friends’ blogs and wanted to point out an excellent one written by MNDrifters.  They have been on the road a little longer than we have, and like us, they have to work as they go.  They have done some jobs we have never done, most recently working in a parking lot at a festival. It’s a brutally honest account of their experience (we have it much easier in comparison at this job), but it is also very funny.  Dino keeps a sense of humor about this stuff, which I admire.  If you like reading accounts of peoples’ work kamping experiences, and I can’t imagine you would be reading this if you didn’t, I absolutely recommend checking this post out.

Day 70
I woke up today feeling like I had slept in a pillowy trench.  When we first hit the road, we took out the RV mattress our rig came with and replaced it with our very expensive pillow top mattress we had at home, and then added an additional pillow top mattress cover.  After a while your body sort of mashes the filling down and form a you-shaped “dent” in the mattress cover, and this becomes uncomfortable to me.  The only way to fix it is to wash the cover, but since it is so big it won’t fit in our Splendide washer/dryer combo.  As a general rule I am not a big fan of going to the laundromat, but since I had the complaint I volunteered to go.  I also took the sheets and our comforter and headed into Dilley.  It turned out this was one of the nice ones!  It had newer machines, a very clean tile floor, and a person on staff.  The other folks using the machines were very nice and it only took a little more than an hour to wash and dry everything I had.

One of my biggest concerns about using a laundromat near the oil fields was oil and tar that could be in the dryers, so I was relieved to see that they had designated two dryers especially for oil field clothes.  In my youth I had some clothes ruined by melted tar that the person before me left in the dryer and have always been cautious since.  Other than the laundry trip it was a nice, pleasant day.  Lee has been taking advantage of the time to organize and complete a mini-purge and I have been finishing up some other items. (I’m always unpacking and repacking the rig. It helps me to remember what we have and don’t have, and where I’ve squirreled things away. It also helps to keep an eye on what is and isn’t being used, and these mini-purges are something I really enjoy, because it keeps clutter-creep down, and helps with weight, which helps with gas mileage. – Lee)

We are signing the tax documents and going ahead and paying the bill.  Some people wait until the last minute, but I would rather have it taken care of.  I have also dedicated an hour a night to watching Project Management educational videos and hope to earn 10 Professional Development credits before we leave.  I am also spending some time preparing for my call with Michelle Sagara, my favorite author.  We are scheduling that call for this week and I am really looking forward to it.  I have my list of questions prepared and have gone back and looked at several books and short stories.  I have read all of her books repeatedly, but I didn’t want to freeze in the moment, so I have reread some of my favorite parts. I also downloaded and tested Google Hangouts, as that is the application we will be using to talk and I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any technical difficulties.   We have exchanged some emails last week and she is extremely nice, which has made me feel much more confident about the conversation.  I just want to be prepared so I can learn the most I can from it.

I am also spending 1-2 hours a night working on our story.  I was having a rough time with it a few days ago because I felt like I was being too negative, but I talked it through with Lee and am back on track.  It will be a companion piece to the blog which has lots of the good stories in it, but in order to provide a balanced view I will need to retell some of those stories.  Originally I was focusing on filling in the gaps, especially during the time period when I was working my corporate job and could not talk publicly about what was going on, but as important as those stories are it’s also important to talk about the good stuff that is on the blog.  So now I am writing first, then reading the blog from that time period, and adding in what I think is relevant and rewriting it.  It’s kind of a weird process actually, because although I can relate to myself two years ago, in some respects I have changed so much I have a totally different perspective.  Currently the way I am handling that is to include some excerpts from the blog and forum posts from that time period to “honor” my then-self’s point of view, but I am not sure how readable that will be in the long run.  But it is just a first pass, and the most important thing is to capture my thoughts and feelings, and then I am sure I will need to do a major rewrite.  That will be new for me, but writing this blog is largely a one-two draft process.  Lee does his grammar-spelling-humor-injecting proofread of course, but I rarely go back and rewrite unless it is a particularly difficult subject. On a few rare posts I have rewritten 4-5 times, but I find I make major changes every single time which is concerning.  That is one of the things I want to talk to Michelle about, actually.  Hopefully her process will give me some clarity.

Finally, I have made available a printed version of my recipe book.  My mom wanted a hard copy, so I worked through the various steps to make a hard copy using Kindle Publishing.  It is available on Amazon here if you are interested.  I did want to explain a bit about how this worked because the price is a little on the high side at $16.99, and I wanted to explain why.  Blurb provides publishing but because they specialize in trade books and photography books, they are a high quality publisher.  A soft cover from them would have cost me $41, which was ridiculous.  So I started looking at Kindle publishing and if I had a PDF they could make a paperback for me.  I had to go back and buy the PDF from blurb, which only cost $4.99 but it was a static point in time. Every rewrite, or version would cost me an additional $4.99, which I am not willing to pay, so I am pretty locked in.  Once I uploaded the PDF I had to select a format size and soon ran into issues because I couldn’t just “go back and change the PDF” as they recommended without paying additional money.  Long story short, I ended up with 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 size because that is the only thing that worked with my current formatting.

The size of the book determines the base printing cost (along with the fact that I needed color print on the inside for the pictures)  and in this case the cost is $8.13.  That’s not awful, indeed much better than Blurb’s base price, but Kindle forces you to add 60% on top of the publishing cost and they take all of that.  In order to make any royalty at all I needed to add an upcharge and that’s where the price became too high.  So here is how it breaks down: If you buy the iTtunes version of the book I make around $6, the Ekindle version of the book I make $4, and the hard copy of the book $2.  It’s not so much the change in royalties that bugs me, but being forced into certain pricing structures certainly does.  But hey, it’s totally my fault as I obviously didn’t do adequate research on all this up front.  In order to hopefully avoid these situations in the future, Lee downloaded Adobe’s InDesign  software for me (it’s part of their Creative Cloud suite we already pay for, I just never used it) and I will be trying to use that as my foundation going forward.   The major benefit of course is the ability to create my own revisions and new PDF’s at will.  As far as self-publishing, that is going to require some research. There are lots of companies out there who help with that and although I may ultimately not find a better deal it certainly won’t be for lack of trying!

Day 71
I’m very excited because I finally got a shot of the road runner coming right up to the gate!  Actually now there are a mated pair and it’s been really nice watching them together.  Lee saw the male “hand” the female a moth this morning so they are either courting or nesting in the area.  I was just excited that they are finally comfortable enough to allow me to get some pictures.  Lee was standing less than 10 feet from the gate when the female came up and as long as he didn’t make any sudden movements she was fine.

That was the big excitement for the day as traffic is extremely slow and will probably stay that way until the end.  I did want to take a few moments though and write about a webinar I watched last night.  I have a pretty large library to choose from on projectmanagement.com, and I stumbled across a topic that was of interest to me, so I watched that one.  The title was “Coping Strategies for Bullying in Project Management” and it ended up being an excellent webinar. (As opposed to the much less popular “Bullying Strategies for People Coping With Project Management”, for advanced users. – Lee) I am not a huge fan of the word “bully” because it brings up images of childish behavior in the schoolyard, but bullying in a work environment can be quite different.  Paul Pelletier, who gave the presentation, is a lawyer and project manager who experienced bullying first hand to the point where it had a serious impact on his health.  Since that experience he spent a considerable amount of time researching the psychology of the issue and developing coping strategies.

We all have dealt with bullies, and many of us, myself included, have even been guilty of it a time or two.  Just because we are no longer working in a corporate environment doesn’t mean we will never have to experience it again, and I thought the information was so good that I wanted to pass some of it along. It’s outside of what I normally write about, but since we have experienced it while working on the road I definitely think it is relevant.

Paul defines bullying as repeated abuse and disrespectful behavior ( from eye rolling to verbal or even physical aggression). It’s deliberate, and always for the benefit of the bully.  Some people jut have a bull in a china shop personality, which is unfortunate but it is not bullying unless it is deliberate and personal.   The most common behaviors you will see are aggressive communication, manipulation of work such as excessive micromanagement or overloading a person with tasks, and sabotaging of work; stealing ideas or  withholding pertinent information so a person can’t succeed.   As Paul said, “Bullies are laser focused on a campaign of interpersonal destruction.”  That is a dramatic way to state it, but anyone who has been on the other end of the experience knows that is absolutely true.

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation for me was when he talked about what motivates a bully.  Unlike when we were children, the workplace bully doesn’t typically target the weakest person. Rather, the bully goes after people who he/she perceives as a threat.  The targets are generally skilled workers, well liked, teachers or nurturers, and ethical and honest.  The reason these people are targeted is because they are everything the bully is not, and by undercutting their confidence and undermining their position the bully rises in social status and power.  The problem is, bullies are often high performing, and their bullying gets results.  So if you are working in an environment where short-term results are all that matters (like say a temporary/seasonal position), bullies are often allowed to flourish because they get results, but there are rarely any long term consequences for the person above the bully, so they get the results without the cost. If the company takes a more long-term view though, they understand the cost of bullies, which includes reduced quality of work and losing talented people.

Finally he talked about dealing with bullies, and this was actually a little depressing.  He started by saying that you need to be realistic and understand the work culture, which often supports this behavior.  The things you can do though, and I think all of us who are full timers will definitely agree with this, is stay healthy.  There can be serious health side effects to long-term exposure to this behavior and your health should always come first.  He also recommends minimizing your contact with the person and making those contacts be as impersonal as possible.  Good advice for me because I always want to fix it.  He feels you cannot reason with a bully and you certainly can’t fix them, but you can protect yourself.  The best piece of advice that may work is when the behavior first occurs, stand up for yourself.  Bullies will sometimes move on to other targets if you make it difficult for them, but that action must be taken in the early stages of the relationship or it has no chance of working.  That really resonated with me, because I tend to take a wait and see attitude and hope things will get better and that is exactly the wrong approach.  “Be courageous, but calculated,” according to Paul which is an excellent piece of advice.

(While I find the above to be interesting, informative and useful, I also find it to be a little on the heavy side. To provide a little balance and to send you on your way with a smile, here’s a bunny, with pancakes on its head. – Lee)

pancake_bunny

 




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 Gate Guarding – Days 65 – 68

Day 65

The weather was absolutely stunning today. 74 degrees, no clouds, and a light breeze.  I decided to go to the grocery store and it was nice getting out.  Everything is very green here and as of yet the “hordes”of mosquitoes that we’ve been warned about haven’t appeared.  When I got back I downloaded Google Hangout and tested it with my youngest daughter, Kay.  She helped me worked through the interface and we discovered it didn’t work very well on the IPad.  Since this is what I am using for my upcoming call with my favorite author I wanted to work out the bugs before I started.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the frack pond lining guys have been working pretty hard on the pond and told me when they left they have one more day of work to do.  I’m not sure how that will impact the fracking schedule since the work-over crew is still going, but they are making progress. (The way I look at it, every day brings us closer to our April 1st departure, so they can feel free to take their time. – Lee)

Since we know things are going to get busy soon I have been spending quite a bit of time at night writing.  Last night I wrote about our final days in Keene, and the first few months we were on the road.  As exciting as things were back then we had a pretty rough start, and dredging all that up was kind of tough.  Still, it was good to be able to write about it without being concerned about my job, or how folks would perceive us.  I worried a lot more about that sort of thing back then.  When I woke up this morning and looked at the blog comments from yesterday’s post I had the past firmly in my mind.

One of our readers, The Wandering RVer (who coincidentally lives about 30 minutes from where we used to live, and is facing 18 inches (Better her than us! – Lee)  of snowfall today ) asked, “How would you compare your “happiness meter” now with your “happiness meter” 5 years ago?” That’s a really good question.  My happiness meter is way higher, but the scale has changed.  It is not lost on me that we are very lucky to be enjoying 74 degree weather and not dealing with the crazy snow anymore.  I know many people are anxiously awaiting being in a position where they can experience the same thing.  But I can be grateful for the parts of this lifestyle I like and still want to tweak it so it is better for me. When we first started out I was acutely aware of how lucky I was. We were financially stable because I got to keep my job, we were in Florida during the worst snowstorm in New England in many years, we had our families blessing  for our lifestyle choice, and we had many friends who were close by and extremely supportive.  I was grateful for all of that and felt lucky, but that didn’t mean the adjustment wasn’t very difficult.

I tell my girls that most things in life worth having are hard.  I completely believe that.  Childbirth was hard, parenting is hard,  and marriage is absolutely hard.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful, but it does mean you have to work at them. Being full timers, at least for us,  isn’t always easy.  It requires compromise, some sacrifice, and lots of communication.  And that doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that it is real life.  I know that  in the beginning I fell into the trap of seeing the lifestyle like a vacation.  After a couple of months I knew that wasn’t true, but I still thought since we struggled we must be doing it wrong.  If we could just find the magic combination of travel and work it would be like we had envisioned it in our heads.  In the last two months we have gotten much better at talking about the reality of what it is.  I think that’s a good thing.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t committed, and it certainly doesn’t mean we are doing anything wrong, it just means we haven’t got it all figured out yet. And that’s OK because we will keep plugging away until we figure out what works best for us.

In the meantime, to answer the question,  I am much happier than I was living in New England. My relationship with my husband is much better than it was prior to us going on the road, and I have more deep and meaningful friendships than I ever have in life. Plus, it’s 74 degrees, and not snowing, and that doesn’t suck.

Day 66

Busy day today.  First we had our meeting with the accountant and found out what the news was there. Keep in mind I am not an accountant, and am passing along what I heard him say.  I could have gotten some of this wrong.  We have to pay $3700 this year, which is almost the same as we got in a refund last year.  That really wasn’t that bad, because we had to pay taxes and a penalty on a 401K loan I let expire right after we went on the road, and we ended up paying $1K penalty because we didn’t have ACA compliant health insurance for 9 months out of the year.  Since the compliant insurance was going to cost me $1K a month, I was OK with that.  And in case you were wondering (I was) the executive order that President Trump signed did not stop us from having to pay the penalty.  First, it is only for 2017 forward, and second, the order he signed said the IRS has “the right” to attempt to collect the money but “must” accept the tax return as is.  We could have filed that way and rolled the dice that no one would make a fuss later, but that’s not really our style. Thankfully we are now ACA compliant in 2017, so regardless of what happens with legislation it won’t be an issue going forward.

That amount also included $48 in interest because we didn’t pay 90% of our taxes in the calendar year.  Since the 90% is calculated off the prior year earnings, that would have been impossible for us anyway.  $48 is not a big deal, and going forward we could avoid this interest by paying tax periodically to the government.  Or we may not, since it’s still hard for us to guess what our net income will be.  What Lee would like to do is set aside the money into a savings account as we go so we have it at year end, and I am fine with that.  The good news was we went from a 25% tax rate down to a 15% tax rate because we made so much less money.  The bad news was we had to pay an additional 14% on all business/1099 money which took us to an overall tax rate of 29% for a portion of our funds.  Since this year most of our money came from W-9 jobs, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it is important to take into account going forward.

We also spent a big chunk of today planning our route and stops when we leave here. Originally we were going to Padre Island and Big Bend, but we had an opportunity to see our friends Deb and Steve, who we have not seen in over a year.  It’s been a long time since we had to coordinate a trip with multiple people and I had forgotten how complicated it could be.  They are headed east at almost the same time we are headed west, so we tried to find a place that worked with both our routes, had things to do, had cell coverage (Steve is still working his corporate job), and had availability.  Not as easy as you would think.  Ultimately we found a place and both booked it at the same time, so we are super excited.  We were also talking to Cori and Greg who will be with us for a couple of days and even though they are on vacation in Mexico found a way to book their spot as well.  Really, really excited about seeing them. (Lest anyone’s feelings get hurt, we not more excited to see one couple than the other. One we are apparently “really, really” excited to see, but the other we are “super” excited to see. We love everyone equally, except those that we love more, and you know who you are. – Lee)

Once we had those dates locked in we went ahead and booked more of our route.  I wanted to visit our friend Sherry in Cottonwood and see Sedona, and when I saw the State Park only had two spots left we went ahead and booked that as well.  Then we looked ahead to Flagstaff but that got a little trickier.  Most of the campgrounds there don’t open until May 1st and we will be just a little earlier than that.  On the plus side there is tons of Forest Service land in that area, so we are going to check that out.  By the time all of that was done several hours had actually passed.  Part of the reason it took that long was we had moderately heavy truck traffic.  The people doing the pond liner finished up today and that just leaves the work-over rig crew.  Not sure yet how much longer that will be, but trying to find out. (Once again, no rush, take your time, guys. – Lee) 

Day 67

I didn’t sleep well at all last night and had a slow start to my day.  Lee worked more on editing (he has completed 171 videos to date) and I looked in a recipe book for a chicken marsala recipe.  It is one of Lee’s favorites, so I would really like to learn how to make it, plus it has Marsala wine and mushrooms in it which works for me.  In the past I always avoided cooking with alcohol for some reason, recently I am finding I really like it. So I am going back and re-looking at some recipes I skipped over in the past and giving them a try.  I’m not nearly as interested in cooking meals though, so Lee and I are largely eating “whatever”, and I am just cooking the items I like.  Tonight I am trying crawfish tail stuffed mushrooms, and that may be my entire dinner. I have always been a person who could mostly eat “whatever” for meals, but Lee has always liked a full meal, with some kind of meat, starch and vegetable. Thankfully he’s fine with cooking his own meals, and I am eating an odd mixture.  Something about working nights has my eating schedule kind of screwy so yesterday I had four small meals; toast/bacon, leftover steak/green beans, a hot dog, and a bologna sandwich.  Works for me.

The mushrooms by the way turned out great.  Over the years Lee and I have tried to duplicate Red Lobster stuffed mushrooms numerous times and were never successful.  These weren’t quite the same, but were definitely in the ball park, and the closest we have ever been to duplicating them. The trick apparently is to make the stuffing first, then saute the mushrooms, without stuffing,  until they are tender.  Once the mushrooms cool you stuff them, top with cheese, and then place in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to finish off.  Perfect.  The stuffing was close, need to tweak it a bit with a little more salt and maybe a pinch of garlic, but I am thrilled the technique was mastered.  That’s one of the reasons I continue to try new recipes.  Even if the particular recipe isn’t exactly what I want, I often master a new technique in the process. That’s often the fun part.

Day 68

Didn’t sleep well again last night, maybe I am just tired of working nights  When I woke up the company man was leaving and I asked when he thought the fracking would start.  He said they had a couple of days left on the work over rig and it could be a couple of weeks before the fracking began.  That really surprised me, because I thought it would be somewhat immediate, and he saw this and then quickly said it could be sooner, but he really had no idea.  It’s important to note that this particular company man has been our account manager’s point of contact through the entire process.  When I fell into the gate, he is the one who got them to come out and put the drop bars on it.  I figured if anyone would know it would be him, but once again I was told he only knew his part of the process.

In our case that’s OK.  We have 13 days left and if there is a delay in the fracking that is no problem for us.  As much as I would like to experience that so I can report on it, I also would be just fine at this point if we skipped it all together.  From what I have read the traffic is heavy 24/7, which we have not experienced.  Our heaviest traffic days so far have had the volume occurring mostly in the daytime, but from what we have heard the sand trucks come around the clock.  The interval in which you get truck traffic can vary significantly though, depending on where the sand is coming from.  We read one account where all the sand came at once and the gate guard had 20 trucks lined up on the road.  In other accounts the trucks can comes as frequently as every 5 minutes if the sand pile they are pulling from is close by.  I am sure it isn’t solid busy all day, every day, but since we have established the slow days are the good days, we’re not looking forward to it in any event.  If there is a two week delay, we might actually miss it all together which would be just fine with me.  To prepare for leaving Lee made a trip up to San Antonio.  He had to return the speaker bar he bought, get a haircut (he is super shaggy) and make a Costco run.  As tempted as we were to buy enough for two months at Costco that has never worked out well for us in the past.  So he will be buying some things this trip and then we will need to go again when we are near Phoenix with our friends. Hate going twice, but buying huge amounts there always blows our budget and then we never get that money back by buying less the following month.  Best to just stay in the food budget month to month. (I cleverly designed this trip so I ended up arriving on the southwest side of San Antonio at rush hour on a Friday, and Costco was on the northeast side. It took me 90 minutes to go 23 miles. So I ended up not getting a haircut, which is kind of a drag, because my last haircut was November 1st. I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone nearly 6 months without a haircut. And I really don’t want to drive back SA before we leave April 1st, so I will either need to wait until Phoenix, or go the little place here in town. Tracy needs to learn how to cut hair. – Lee)

While he was gone, I spent some time looking at my PMP credentials.  In 2008, I took a class and an extremely hard test and received my Project Manager Professional certification.  In order to maintain this certification I need to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDU;’s) every three years.  In the past this was easy, and I was working in the field, going to school, and a member of my local Project Management Institute chapter.  This last year I have pretty much blown it off and when I went to pay my annual membership fee was a little concerned to see I  needed to earn 35 credits in the next 406 days.  Since I want to keep my credentials up to date, I need to find a way to earn those credits and I have a couple of different routes I can take.  While I have been out of the field Agile Project Management has become all the rage and they are now offering a separate certification in that methodology.  I could easily earn the credits if I took the classes and got that certification, but that would be a major undertaking.  I had to study every day for 6 months for the last one. Plus, Agile is primarily used for IT projects and although I have managed those in the past they are not my favorite types of projects.  They are lucrative and there is always plenty of work, but I am much more interested in less technical projects, in particular the “soft skills” of team building, process improvement, and change management.  If I am going to re-enter the field I would like to be choosier about what types of projects I work on. In my past I largely had to accept whatever I was offered because I needed the practical experience and of course it was my full time job.  Now, hopefully, I can be choosier.

So this leaves me with volunteering my time and completing some online education.  Thankfully there have been huge improvements in the virtual offerings available and many of those classes are now offered for free to PMI members.  Basically for every 1 hour online course you earn 1 PDU so at worst I need to carve out 35 hours worth of time to watch these seminars. And  if possible I would like to do some volunteering.  There are some virtual positions available through the international network of PMI chapters and it seems like a great way to get my head back in the game and do some networking.  In particular I am interested in working with some overseas chapters to bulk up my international experience. I am really kicking myself though for not looking at this sooner, because we will be traveling soon and I am leery about signing up for anything until we see how the internet connection is in Oregon.  There is a good chance we will not have internet at our site which would make volunteering more challenging.  At least though I can start doing some of the online courses now.  It’s great that we have unlimited data because I don’t need to worry about data usage.  I know that is quite a bit of detail but I am mentioning it for those whose game plan is to maintain a professional career on the road.  There is nothing wrong with taking a break, I actually encourage it, but keep in mind in today’s world skill sets can become outdated very fast and it is certainly something to keep an eye on.

On a completely different note I keep forgetting to mention our “pet roadrunner.”  We have one particular road runner that hasn’t gotten more used to us over time and he/she likes to hang out in the ditch that runs right by the RV.  We haven’t gotten any pictures, because he will come up when we are sitting outside but if we try to go in the RV he takes off.  He’s been getting closer and closer and today he walked up and picked up a bug less than 10 feet from me.  They really are beautiful creatures and I am enjoying getting to see him/her closeup.  I was talking to one of the truck drivers about it and he said some gate guards nearby had one that was really fat.  Every night they put a wooden board out and when they flip it over in the morning it has bugs on it.  They eat their breakfast outside and the road runner, comes every morning and eats the bugs off the board.  Very cool.


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

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 63 -64

Day 63

The ranch owner stopped by last night to check the rain meter and told us we had 7/10ths of an inch the day before.  This, coupled with, another 7/10ths of an inch on Thursday is pretty unusual.  This area of Texas has gotten more rain than usual in the last 4 years, but it still an arid region and they don’t take the rain for granted.  The owner also keeps asking about the activity level back at the rig.  All we can tell him is a rough number of vehicles that are on site and the hours they are working.  He seems to be losing patience a little though because he said it was “time to see the black stuff flowing.”  I get where he is coming from of course, but from our perspective every day’s delay is another day of pay. 

Plus with absolutely zero no traffic at night, I am getting quite a bit of writing done.  Once I got started the first draft has been coming pretty easily.  I just finished writing about our first rally, and since I was keeping this a secret back then had to take a combination of blog posts, forum posts, and memory to really put together the complete story, but it is coming along very well.   It’s amazing to me how much happened between June 2013 and November 2014, and now that I am getting into this I am glad I started the project before too much time passed.  My friend Ellen has been trying to get me to start writing this story for a couple of years now, but I just never felt I was ready.  She was absolutely right though, because it feels like the right amount of time has passed for me to have some perspective, but not completely forget how I felt back then.  Even if I have to put what I have written on the shelf for a while  when we start traveling again, I will have this much of the story written, which is a really good thing.  So thanks Ellen, you were right!

I was pretty much in the zone so I didn’t actually notice when the time jumped forward an hour.  I was a little tired anyway so when Lee got up a few minutes to 4am I didn’t think anything of it.  When he asked about the time, that’s when I realized there was a Daylight Savings switch.  Lee took one for the team on losing an hour of sleep, but I got my full 8 hours, which was nice.  I actually slept really well because the temperatures have cooled down and it is a pleasant 64 degrees. Since gate traffic was minimal, Lee and I decided to watch a movie and I chose Deepwater Horizon.  Whenever we can, we like to watch a movie about the area we are visiting. Since we are gate guarding in an oil field this movie seemed particularly appropriate. And it was a very good movie on its own merit.  I really liked the way they portrayed people as just regular folks and they did a great job of explaining what went wrong.  

One thing I will mention, and no spoiler here as you see this in the first 10 minutes, is how even on an oil rig each little group only knew what was happening in their particular area.  It takes the Installation Manager multiple conversations to find out if a simple test was done and that whole scene really struck a cord with me.  Apparently segmentation of role and lack of information is systemic in the oil field industry, because I just saw the exact same lack of communication we have been experiencing in that film.  And yes I know I keep harping on this, but that was an extreme example of what can happen if everyone doesn’t know the safety procedures.  

Our job here is to guard the gate, but we have heard that in case of emergency we will be responsible for assisting police/fire crews.  That makes sense, especially as we are located at the point of entry to the site, but I think it’s important that if something like that happened, I would have absolutely no idea what my role was.  Certainly I can use my own common sense and rely on my past experience as a security guard, but shouldn’t I have some documented instructions with procedures and emergency contact numbers?  That seems pretty basic to me.  And to be clear, I am in no way holding my gate guarding company accountable for this.  The company man is clearly in charge of the installation so I would expect it to come from them.  Clearly not a big deal to them and the chances are extremely rare it would ever happen.  But, and there is a spoiler here, I just saw a movie about a rig on fire and the two low-level people who were in the command center were in complete disagreement about what to do because “they didn’t have authority.” That should never, ever happen in a life safety situation.  On the positive side though, there was a great scene in the movie where two people have to start an emergency generator and ended up reading laminated instructions hanging from a hook on the generator.  As a person who used to write those type of instructions and make sure they were hanging where they should be, it was pretty cool to see them used in an emergency situation helping to save lives. 

Obviously I am pretty passionate about process improvement.  I miss my old job sometimes. 

Day 64

Here are last week’s numbers.  We saw a bit of an increase in traffic midweek when they brought in the workover rig, but it was definitely manageable, especially since the company man told us we could leave the gate open on the two heavier days.

When the traffic is like this it is hard to argue with the value proposition of the job especially if you derive your hourly wage from hours actually worked.  Still, I have to be awake and somewhat alert during the evening hours, just in case, which is kind of a bummer because we only had one truck all week past 8:00pm and that was a wrong gate situation.  Either way, Lee and I are ready to move on.  It’s been 60 days, which is a very long time for us to stay in one place and go nowhere else (trips to the grocery store aside) and the weather, which has been rainy or overcast, is not helping.  The weather has always been a key factor for us, especially Lee, and Texas weather is extremely variable.  We’ve been pretty lucky so far with some absolutely gorgeous days, but even so we have seen swings from 30 degrees to 99 degrees.  We’ve seen wind, lightning, dust storms, and heavy rain.  What we have not seen, and consider ourselves lucky, is hail, tornadoes, insect swarms, or flooding.  All of these weather conditions absolutely occur in this area, and when we see accounts of golf ball sized hail and extreme wind from other gate guards we know we have it good.

Overall, it’s been pretty good.  I would definitely do it again, because we have to be somewhere in the winter, and at least here we are earning some money.  The amount of downtime in the job coupled with the fact that we have been treated very well goes a long way for us.  Still haven’t experienced fracking so I can’t say for sure, but overall it seems fine for a coupe of months in the winter.  My personal goal, however, is to explore some other ways of making money next year.  This is a good option to have, but I would really like to see what else is out there for us as mobile workers.

While I have been researching (and writing) the early days of our full timing story, I have been getting acquainted with my original plan for the lifestyle.  I was completely convinced that I was going to have to quit my job to make this work and put together everything I would need to start consulting.  It was actually one of the major benefits of the lifestyle for me.  I was friends with some consultants and thought I would really like it, but with the mortgage and kids at home was never confident enough to take the risk financially.  With lower bills, less debt, and mobility I thought it would be a great fit.  It came as a big surprise to me when my company allowed me to keep my job while living on the road, and since we sold our house for essentially what we paid for it, I needed to keep the job until the truck was paid off.  A year later when the buyout opportunity came, I just needed a break.  We had Year 1 under our belt, really wanted to go to Alaska, and I was tired.  Plus Lee really wanted to try the lifestyle just doing work kamping and I felt I owed that to him.  He had been very understanding about my work requirements for Year 1 and I thought it was time to try it on his terms.

So we work kamped in Alaska, did the beet harvest, then Christmas Trees and now gate guarding.  Next we have scheduled camp hosting in Oregon and had signed up for Amazon.  At the end of this year we will have 18 months of what I consider the work kamping lifestyle under our belt and certainly enough information to see what that looks like.  It is good to have options, but neither one of these paths (full-time mobile job versus series of work kamping jobs) has given us what we originally envisioned when we started this.  Our goal was always to “work a little/play a little” but in most scenarios it has definitely been more work than play.

Don’t get me wrong, we still feel we get to see more cool things and have more great experiences than we ever had in our traditional life, but we have not been able to find the type of balance we have been looking for.  Perfect world view is change of scenery every couple of months, fulfilling work, and time to explore.  And it may turn out that balance is extremely difficult to find.  But, it is definitely a life that is worth searching for and as Lee says “dissatisfaction is the key to excellence”.  Overall, I am really happy about the path we have taken.  Having my  old job through the Year 1 transition gave me a much-needed foundation and ultimately led to a healthy financial package that allowed us to pay off our truck.  Trying the work kamping jobs has shown us the reality of a life financed by low-level positions and has forced us to get a handle on our spending. I am sure whatever happens in 2018 we will learn something from that as well.

The biggest mistake I made coming into this lifestyle was the idea that if we followed conventional wisdom everything would work out.  The problem with a “no one way” lifestyle  is that conventional wisdom is not that helpful.  Couple that with the fact that as working RVers without investment/pension revenue we are in the minority , and you really have to be careful about comparing your travels to those of other people.   It’s interesting actually that in this lifestyle it’s the cool experiences that matter.  No cares what you do for a living, and they rarely care much about “your rig is nicer than mine” because ultimately we all know we are living in boxes on wheels, but the experiences…well that matters.  It’s hard to sit here at a dusty gate and look at pictures of your friends sipping cocktails on the beach, and I am sure it was hard for many of them to see our beautiful pictures of Alaska.  You always want to be out there, experiencing the cool stuff, but however you are paying for it, those experiences cost something. It’s much cheaper to “hole up” as we are now in one small section of the country and just hang out. 

That can be great of course.  You can see friends, explore an area, work on hobbies or just rest awhile.  But sooner or later, I think most of us get the “hitch itch” and really want to move on. There is a reason after all we chose to forgo our sticks and bricks homes and getting out and seeing things is near the top of almost everyone’s list.  This lifestyle is also real life and we all have obligations that need to be incorporated into our travels. For us, we need to find a way to balance our travels with earning a living, and we are still working on that.  The good news is, we have plenty of time.  Neither one of us is anywhere close to being ready to settle down, and since we are relatively young and in good health we can keep going.  And we have choices.  Lots and lots of glorious choices, because we have followed a very deliberate path and held on to the money we started with.  I feel really good about that, and am really excited to see what happens next.


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

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 60 – 62

Day 60

Last night a storm front came in very fast and you could actually see this cloud moving quickly towards us.  Thankfully I had enough time to open the gate and snap a couple of pictures because it quickly started pouring and then the lightning came.

Lee said he saw an angry face in this cloud. It did look like it was coming right for us.

Once the lightning was on us I stayed in the rig and poked my head out to wave trucks through.  I take lightning very seriously, because I know personally two people who lost family members to lightning strikes.  They were both in their teens; one was killed at an outdoor concert and another was killed on the beach.  So I stay inside with lightning and I was very glad that when I threw the question out to our gate guarding group everyone agreed that you open the gate and then stay as safe as possible.

The storm continued on and off for a few hours and the water accumulated very quickly.  For the first time the small drainage ditch beside our rig filled with water.  Speaking of that ditch, the road runner has finally gotten used to us and now runs along the fence in that ditch even when we are sitting outside.  We just lower our voices and don’t make any sudden movements and he will wander about for some time.  Really enjoying that.

The rain finally stopped and everyone was gone by 8pm, so I had another quiet night.  Taking advantage of the quiet to do some more writing because we are not sure yet if the crew for the next few days will be working just days or 24/7.  They did bring a new sign out and now we have a totally different name and number.  The good thing is hopefully that will stop some of the wrong gate traffic we have been getting since the old rig that was here has now moved to the ranch down the road.

I also should mention that a couple of days ago our stereo stopped working, so we have only been able to get our sound from the computer speakers, which are not so good for watching movies or TV. Lee was using headphones when he watched things while I was asleep so as not wake me, and he thinks that somehow the stereo headphone jack is stuck, and cutting off the sound to the speakers. He doesn’t think there’s a way for him to fix it and even though it would be covered by warranty at this point we are not going to mess with all of that.  Instead Lee went and tried to find a reasonably priced surround sound system, which is something we eventually wanted to add anyway.

Day 61

I was tired last night and it was really hard to stay awake, especially since I knew no one was coming until tomorrow.  I did all the standard stuff I do to stay awake but it was practically impossible. I was so very tempted to go lay down in the bed and go to sleep, but just didn’t feel right about it, just in case. And it was a good thing because at 3:30am a truck pulled up because they were at the wrong gate.  That’s exactly what I thought could happen.  Seriously, the directions these guys are given for the ranch down the road are always wrong.  They say things like go on this road and stop at first gate (which is us) or go to end of road and stop at gate and since we are so close to the end and it’s hard to see the other gate I totally get why they stop here.  Ah well.

One good thing was I had time to go through my emails and saw the iBook version of the book was approved already!  It only took a couple of days, which is great, and is available for purchase or preview in the iBooks format from this link. And by the way, I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to reach out and congratulate me.  No matter what happens with sales, I feel good about the accomplishment and really appreciate the validation I am getting from everyone.  I don’t ever want this blog to just be about selling stuff, and I always worry people will get turned off by anything commercial, but the nice comments really help.  I  am just feeling my way here with all of this and I know you guys will tell me if I take a wrong turn.

I woke up at noon to a little bit of sunshine, but by 1pm it was raining again.  The direct result of all this rain is more delays to the fracking schedule.  Also, everything is really green, which is a nice change of scenery, and of course the dust from the road is pretty nonexistent.  I think the ranch down the road has turned into a mud pit, judging from the looks of the trucks coming out of there, but our brand new road is actually holding up pretty well.  We have heard that farther back things get pretty muddy, but we still haven’t seen it so couldn’t say for sure.  One thing I know I will regret about this assignment is the fact that I still really don’t understand what is happening.  Without being able to see the site and only getting to talk to people who know their own small piece of the puzzle, it is just impossible to put together an accurate picture.  I know I could research the process on the internet, but when I learn about jobs I like first hand information.  That is the business analyst in me.  The only reason I mention it is every time we have asked our company to provide an overview we have been told “you will figure it out.”  I think at this point I can unequivocally say, “No, we won’t, lol” And  again, it’s not like we have to understand the big picture to do our job, but I am a big believer that everyone should understand the big picture, so from an ideological standpoint, I don’t agree with it. It doesn’t keep me up at night or anything, but if you are a person who absolutely has to know what is going on this job may not be for you.

Lee left right after I took my shower  and went to get us some surround sound.  He went to several stores and ended up with a Sony HT-CT180 Sound BarHe got a good deal on it as it only cost $150, but he was worried on the way home that it might not fit.  It was absolutely perfect and we spent some time figuring out where to put it. 

Day 62

Last night something really exciting happened.  My favorite author, Michelle Sagara, put out a blog post that she was offering a few perks for a Pixelproject fundraising campaign.  The Pixel Project  is a non profit dedicated to stopping violence against women worldwide. Several female authors are offering autographed copies of their books or other extras, and Michelle was offering either a short story written with an idea the buyer suggested or a 30 minute one-on-one Skype chat.  I absolutely adore her writing and had read everything she has ever written so either one of those sounded fantastic to me.  The items were going up at midnight with a set price and it would be first come-first serve on who purchased them.  I definitely wanted to check it out, but I wasn’t sure what time zone it would be so I checked at numerous times through the night but nothing was there.  Finally at 3:10am my time the items were up,  The short story was already taken, but the Skype chat was available.  I grabbed it immediately and  made the purchase!!  

The price was $200, which is well beyond what I would normally spend on anything for myself,  but I just couldn’t pass the opportunity up.  (I have taken her to Vegas several times to try to change this about her. Nevertheless, she persists. – Lee) Plus my father sent me $100 for my birthday which I never spent, so really I was just spending $100.  It has been a dream of mine to write a fantasy series since I was in my early 20’s, and although I have some outlines I have never felt confident enough to start writing.  You have to create a completely separate world to write a fantasy series, and that is an intimidating prospect.  Since hers is one of the most complex I have ever read, and has the most well-developed characters roaming in it, I can’t wait to ask her about her process in developing it. Plus it is for a great cause and is tax-deductible, which is nice. 

So. I am incredibly excited especially since I have been spending time every night writing about our experiences.  The timing is just perfect and it should be a wonderful experience.  She seems like a very nice person, someone you could hang out with, so I am sure she will be very nice about it. I just need to make my list of questions in advance so I don’t completely geek out and forget what I wanted to ask her about.

After waking up this morning, all of the workers left the site by around 1pm.  Yesterday they worked until 8pm and today until 1pm so we never really understand what the schedule will be.  It finally stopped raining and a couple of guys who owned the ranch next door stopped by to introduce themselves.  Really nice young men, and they warned us than in a couple of days we would be getting “swarms of mosquitoes”.  Apparently there is a low-lying area where the mosquitoes breed very close by, and they wanted to give us the heads up so we could stock up on bug spray, foggers etc.  OK… I mean how bad is this going to be?  Either way it was nice meeting them and I appreciated their stopping by and introducing themselves. 

After they stopped by Lee started the process of putting in the new speakers.

We both loved the idea of putting the speaker above our fireplace, but were both concerned with how the heat might impact it over time.

So Lee decide to remove the existing system and put the sound bar here

Since the black covers are just a simple wood frame and acoustic fabric he was sure he could create a new one that could cover the entire space

Once he removed the stereo though he realized he actually could open it up.  (As a side note, see how dusty everything is.  (#GateGuardingisDusty)

He was able to remove the front panel. He also hasn’t had a haircut since the first of November.

He’s pointing to the headphone jack, and on the back side is a small circuit board with a removable wiring harness. (Originally I though that there might be a short in the metal connections for the headphone jack, and I was going to just cut the headphone wires, since I can use the headphone jack on the computer instead. But then I saw the wiring harness and was happy that I could just unplug it. Once I got it unplugged, I reconnected the stereo and the speakers worked just fine. Then it occurred to me that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, disconnecting and reconnecting everything might have caused a hard reset, and I plugged the harness back in. Still sound from the speakers. I still don’t plan to use the headphone jack, because if it happens again, I would have to pull everything apart again, but at least now I know what the deal is. – Lee) 

So he removed the headphone jack wiring and voila!

All is right with the sound again!

I was pretty excited, because after trying the sound box all evening I wasn’t that impressed with the improved quality of sound, plus the stereo allows us to play music on outside speakers, and has an input for the iPod and none of that would have been in place with the new sound system.  So everything is going back in the box and being returned to the store,and we just saved $150!!  There was never a doubt in my mind Lee could fix it, but he was thinking the box would be all one unit and disposable rather than repairable.  We were both pleasantly surprised to find out that wasn’t the case.  And the trip to get surround sound wasn’t a complete loss, as now we know what is out there and in our case, it just doesn’t seem like a great fit.


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

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 56 -59

Day 56

 

It was another slow day in gate guarding land.  The only folks we have seen were the guy who brings diesel for our generator, which does not require us to open or close the gate, and some guys who are coming to finish the fracking pond. They are still figuring out the job though, and haven’t actually started the finishing work, so I think we still have a few more days of this peace and quiet.  Oh, and to give you an idea of exactly how slow it’s been, here are last week’s numbers.  Initially we logged all the “wrong gate” traffic, but we got pretty lax on that this week so this doesn’t include every time we had to direct people to the next gate down, but as you can see it was amazingly slow. And yes we get paid the same regardless, which is nice! (I have never logged a a wrong gate vehicle. It just seems silly to log a vehicle that I turn away. It’s one step away from logging vehicles that just drive by without even slowing down. – Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 57

The guys who are putting the liner in the pond stopped by, and I tried to get a feel for when the liner would be put in.  They were extremely noncommittal about the timeline, but one guy did say that they couldn’t do it when it rained and it was supposed to rain all week.  Hard to complain about having another week of all this free time and getting paid for it, so we’ll take it.  The unlimited data is working out great so far, by the way.  We are 10 days in to the new plan, and well over 240GB on the WiFi hotspot and no throttling so far.  Of course we are in a remote area with an under taxed tower so that helps.  Lee has been taking advantage and uploading all these home movies he has been working on to You Tube, hence the huge amount of data we have been using. We will continue to see how it goes and I’ll let you know. So far it’s been awesome. (Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it. After two years of watching our data usage every day and carefully thinking about whether or not to download things, now I just don’t. It’s delightful. – Lee)

Day 58

It’s funny how the volume of trucks makes all the difference in both of our moods.  Last week when it was so busy I couldn’t wait to be done, but now it’s been very pleasant.  I think that shows, at least for us, that it’s less about having to stay in one place or even being “on call” 24/7, but more about how much down time we have during the day. Lots of down time and it’s an OK gig.  Under those circumstances we don’t mind the negatives so much.  Minimal down time and those restrictions start to bother both of us.  I actually think that’s pretty normal. Things were a little more active today with several of the folks who are laying down water piping coming in this morning.  Nothing too major, but enough activity Lee put his yellow vest on!  We also finally saw the company man and were told what the schedule will be.  For the next 9 days they will be doing “workover” (3 wells – 3 days each).  Workover will only involve a few trucks per day and then once that is done the fracking will start, assuming the frack crew is available to start immediately. It’s great to know what is happening, but a bit of a bummer because we were really hoping we would get out early so we could meet friends in Apache Junction, but I doubt that is going to happen now.  It depends on how long fracking takes, of course, but I am guessing with three wells that might take a while as well.  We do have some extra time set aside to just relax, but we can extend our time a bit if they still need us.  Not sure how we will feel about that at the fracking pace, but if it was like this that would be hard to turn down. (My understanding is that the fracking process involves a more or less steady stream of trucks all day and night. I am happy to stay until the end date we gave them, but I’m not interested at all in extending. We need a break before we settle in for a whole summer of work on May 9th. – Lee) 

As a side note,  I received several comments from folks that they didn’t know how to view the recipe book preview.  Thank you for your interest.  There are two ways.  Either click on the “Look Inside” link on the upper right hand side or “Send a Free Sample” on the right hand side.  I took a screenshot of Amazon and have highlighted both of those places in a red box. Unfortunately you don’t get to choose which pages get previewed so perhaps my idea of starting each chapter with the simplest recipes kind of backfires here.  Because the preview only shows a few recipes and all of the beginning ones are very simple, it might give the idea that they are all that simple. It would be nice if the preview allowed for picking out specific pages but that doesn’t seem to be an option, which makes sense I guess in a novel.  If I could go back and change that I might start with a mix of recipes from different sections, but then again that would be confusing if you purchased the book.  Ah well, I am learning here.  Who knew all this would be so complicated and I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of it?

One last thing, then  I promise to move onto other things going forward.   I was invited to be a guest on a talk radio show back in Keene, New Hampshire where we spent the fifteen years prior to going on the road.  A restaurateur friend of ours read about the recipe book on Facebook and invited me on his weekly radio show, so I will be doing that after April 1st.  I think that will be fun, to talk about full-time RVing, and since it’s a small town and it feels like everyone knows everyone else,  I can’t wait to tell the story of how I met someone from Keene that I didn’t know in Tuscon, Arizona at a dump station.  Liz,  I think I will need to change the story a bit though, and just say I met you checking out of the campground.  I don’t think I want to explain dumping poop on the radio lol!!

Day 59

Well we had some excitement in gate guarding land this morning.  Lee took over for me about 4:15am, and right about the time I was falling asleep the power went out.  It was obvious because I lost the air conditioner, but I thought it was one of the temporary power fluctuations we get occasionally.  I was right at that point where I was falling asleep, so I didn’t get up, but my sleep was restless and then at some point it got really hot so I got up and turned on the Fantastic Fan in the bathroom, opened a window and went back to sleep.  I should have just gotten up and talked to Lee at that point, but I was pretty out of it so just fell back into bed. Big mistake because I woke up several times from that point, but never enough to find out what was going on.

Lee was dealing with the problem.  Unlike the power fluctuations we have had that impact the rig only, this power outtage also took out the floodlight tower, which also runs off the provided generator trailer. The generator was running fine and he restarted it several times, but no power was going from the generator to the lights or our rig.  Finally he sent a text to our coordinator and then just waited.  He thought about turning the inverter on, but was concerned about how long the outtage would last so he just read, looked at his phone, and tried to stay awake.  Around 6:30am he heard back that a tech was on his way and the service guy from the generator company was onsite by 9am.  At this point, it was clear it was going to be a muggy, but overcast day so Lee still just hung out with no power.

The service tech spent about an hour diagnosing the problem and eventually stated he had never seen this particular issue before and they would have to replace the service trailer.  Unfortunately, that also meant a new water tank since those two items are on the same trailer.  He did state that he would make sure and scrub the tank out since he knew we had issues with the water before, but obviously this was a concern.  Still, the guy was very nice and since they were jumping on the problem Lee just let it play out.  Around 11:30am they were back with a new generator and a new tankful of water.  We were both pretty impressed by their turnaround time, especially considering how long things took in the beginning, and I am happy to say everything is working great.  We have power, the water is flowing just fine, and things are back to normal.  The only negative is Lee spent his whole 8 hour morning of quiet time dealing with this and I didn’t really get any decent sleep. But truly, it was handled beautifully and we couldn’t ask for more responsiveness.

I wish I was the kind of person who could change her sleep schedule easily because for the next 8 days I could technically sleep in the night-time and since I was up most of the night now would be a good time to do it.   But Lee and I both think that is a bad idea, so I am going to continue staying up all night even though there is no traffic at all.  I am trying to take advantage of the time and have started writing the book about how we became full timers.  I am viewing it as sort of companion piece to the blog and the format allows me to go into more detail, especially about the early stages.  To that end  I have spent some time trying to remember the sequence of events and have reread journal entries and forum posts.  One of the problems is that we kept it a secret in the beginning, so although my early posts don’t lie, they definitely do not tell the whole story.  I was able to be much more honest in the RV-Dreams forum though, and have gone back and found some very interesting posts from the early days that have helped me put together a mental picture of where I was at back then. (I have to say that that entire year was really unpleasant and awful. Here we had made this huge decision and were excited about a whole new life, and we had to keep it a secret. That’s no small task in a small town. Our kids knew, and I told two people that I trusted completely, but other than that it was like the Manhattan project. I do not like lies, or people who lie, and that entire process made me very unhappy and miserable. – Lee)

Oh, and on a completely different note, I am dying to get some Pizza Hut pizza.  Sometimes you just want to order in food, and doing that on the road usually requires pick up.  The closest Pizza Hut is 30 minutes away, and of course they don’t deliver.  When I get these cravings (usually for Pizza or Chinese) I try to tell myself not to spend the money but it’s hard.  I’ll usually hold out for a few days and then after obsessing usually break down and go ahead and get it.  I always feel very conflicted about these food purchases, because unlike an “experience” dining event they feel pretty wasteful.  Plus in a case like this where we are making $125 a day it’s hard not to translate $25 worth of pizza into 5  hours worth of work.  That way lies madness though, at least for me.  If I looked at purchases like that I would never buy anything.  It’s important to remember that we are working off a larger budget and we do have money set aside for this. Of course that needs to be balanced with not overdoing it in any spend category, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a little treat.  My feelings about this particular budget line item surprise me more than any other because not so long ago I lived a life where I routinely spent money on convenient food.  When I traveled for work, that is all I ate.  Now every purchase has to be really considered and sometimes to be honest it bugs me.  I can be honest enough with myself though to recognize that I blew a ton of money on this in my former life, which I wish I could have back.  (I used to spend a ton of money on Chinese food, and I still have the result of most of it. I carry it with me everywhere I go. Physique by General Tso. – Lee) I have to find a way to separate out when I am being lazy and when I truly have a craving, because there is a difference.  And yes, I know these are “First World Problems”, but it doesn’t change the fact that it can be a struggle. So today I choose to get the pizza and enjoy it.  Lee said he will eat something in the freezer, which will actually make is closer to $15 and only 3 hours worth of work.  See, it’s crazy!


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