I had a hard time staying awake last night, but made it to 3:11pm, then took a little nap. No one has come past 7pm so far, and I am kind of wondering what the point of staying up is. It’s a 24/7 gate, but they currently aren’t working 24/7, and it’s hard to know when that will start, so for the time being I am trying to keep to this schedule, although that may change. We knew Friday would be busy and we had 132 truckloads of gravel enter and exit throughout the day. The cool thing was we didn’t have to log them though, just keep a count of those vehicles as they passed through, and report the totals at the end of the day. It was by far the busiest day so far, and the dust went up significantly once they started putting down the gravel road. At this point we have dust everywhere (not unlike Quartzsite) and have both just determined to live with it. You can make yourself crazy by cleaning all the time in an environment like this, but frankly I don’t see the point. As soon as you wipe things down they get dusty again, so in my opinion it’s best to learn to live with it and clean up at the end when we leave.
The provided generator works great, and it’s ample power to run both our air conditioners, and whatever else we need. At one point I turned them both on and closed the windows just to keep the dust levels down and it was a nice benefit. I actually couldn’t be happier about it. We were both very worried that it would be super loud or have an annoyingly pitched tone, but it’s far enough away that the sound mostly blends into the background and the tone is a mellow white noise sound that I can largely ignore. Since this was one of our biggest concerns before coming out here I am happy for it. The big lights that shine on the rig also aren’t bothering me like I thought they would. I am happy for the extra light to see potential snakes by and since it is behind the rig we do have a small pool of darker space right where we put our chairs. Lee put towels up on the two small windows in the rig with clips and it’s plenty dark in the bedroom even in the daytime. Much darker actually than it was in Alaska when it never seemed to get full dark.
Lee was kept very busy all day and after I woke up at noon (Tylenol PM is a wonderful thing) I spelled him for his lunch. We got to see what working at a very busy gate would be like and it is pretty much non-stop action. It’s not stressful, and the truck drivers are all nice, but the longest break between trucks was less than 10 minutes. Lee read quite a bit, but couldn’t really get into anything else because when you are checking a truck in or out you really need to pay attention. If they are not in the database you need licenses plate, first and last name, company, and time in or out. Once they are in the database it gets easier, but you still need to check names because multiple people use the same vehicles throughout the day. Lee had it down to a science and was even entering the non gravel vehicles directly into the tablet, but at this point I am still writing them down on paper and then putting them into the tablet on the first break between trucks. Like I said, not hard, just sort of constant activity at least until about 5pm. Things slow down at that point and as I said, so far by 7pm everyone is gone, but that could very well change. We’re enjoying that while it lasts.
We did talk about it though, because we have divided up the time evenly, but certainly not the workload. For now I am going to take some longer stints in the day when Lee has maintenance/house chores to be done, because he doesn’t want to work on those during his few off hours. That seems fair to me, but we will need to see how it works in practice and adjust accordingly. Every couple will handle this a little differently but I definitely recommend open communication throughout the process. It is not an insignificant amount of work, and should be divided carefully so everyone gets what they need.
On the plus side, the weather had been great so far (in the 70’s) and despite the wind pretty pleasant to be outside. We are expecting rain though this weekend, so we will see how that goes. We also have a pretty nice view of the fields next door and the full moons at night have been beautiful. It makes being outside all day much more pleasant. At night I can stay in the rig, but at that traffic volume Lee pretty much stayed outside all day. I’m guessing that would have been pretty unpleasant if the weather was worse. Some of these jobs has a guard shack for people sit in, but others like ours you work out of your rig. We looked at buying a small popup tent for sun and rain coverage but at this point we are going to hold off unless we really need it.
So the day was going well when about 5pm I got a call from my sister that my step father had died. We found out back in August (when we were in Alaska) that he had stage 4 lung cancer so the call wasn’t completely unexpected. My intention all along has been to go home to Columbus when we were close to the end and every job we have taken we have had a contingency plan in place if I had to leave. You never know how these things will go though, and even a few days ago when we took this job we didn’t know how long he had. When we talked about how we would handle it if I had to leave it was without really understanding what this job would entail. After the first full day I asked Lee if he would be able to do it alone and he immediately said no, it just wasn’t possible for one person to do, unless there was never any traffic at night, so he could sleep. Even though it hasn’t been super busy, he felt it would be to much for him alone if he needed to work 24/7, so at that point we weren’t really sure what we would do.
I spoke to my brother who lives next door to my mom, and is a doctor, so he’s kept a very close eye on the situation, and I have been talking to my mom almost every day. When hospice was called, my brother asked her if she wanted me to come, but she felt she was OK and had the support she needed. She reads the blogs every time they come out and is fully aware of what we are doing here. Plus, they had decided to not have a funeral service (just a small gathering of family) and between my step father’s children, my brother, and her best friend and sister she thought she would be OK. Still, when the call came I of course just wanted to jump on a plane immediately to be with her. My step father has been in my life since my late 20’s and was really good to me and my family. I would like to have done whatever I could for my mom and his kids during this time.
I haven’t written about this until now because it wasn’t my story to tell, but I do feel I should take a moment and talk about it in the context of this lifestyle. One of the major advantages of what we do is flexibility. It’s being with friends or family in moments of tragedy and for almost everyone I know (myself included) being mobile has actually worked to their benefit in a situation like this. That being said, now that we are working so much to “pay as we go” that may not always be the case. Lee could definitely have worked the beet harvest without me and probably could have made Christmas Trees work as well. But this job which is new to us and 24/7 not so much. If we were more established and there was more work available it probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but if we left 2 days into this job I have to account for the possibility that we would never be able to work as gate guards again. Again, if we had been with them longer, it’s possible they would have found a temporary solution to help us deal with this and keep Lee working but then again maybe not.
I am fully aware that with any new job I could have had the same issue, and it’s certainly not unreasonable from the employer’s perspective, but it really brings home once again that this is real life. You would like to think you could pack up and go at a moment’s notice, but it’s more complicated than that. Where would the rig go? Are you both flying or is one driving? Is the family emergency in a northern climate that is not rig friendly? These are all things that would need to be worked out in addition of course to how you will handle any job you are working at the time. I will say of course that if my Mom said she needed me to come I would be there in a heartbeat and the rest we would figure out. She knows that, and she knows the offer remains open. But this situation aside, I just wanted to say it’s not as simple as I thought it would be, and in the same situation it may not be as simple as you thought either. It’s a good thing to talk about in advance though so you know your basic plan. We had one, but as they say in this lifestyle all plans are made in sand, and so through necessity it has now changed. Real life…not vacation.
Bud, you were a really good man, you made my mother very happy, and you will be missed. Rest In Peace.
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