First Time Gate Guarding – Day 6 and 7

Day 6

Thank you to everyone who sent their condolences.  It was much appreciated.  This is a wonderful community we are a part of and it’s really great how people look out after each other.  Mom is doing very well, all things considered, and is getting lots of support from friends and family in Columbus, which is wonderful. It’s much easier not being with her knowing she has that.  I wanted to take a moment and start this post with part of Bud’s obituary, which his sister wrote.  She captured the spirit of him much better than I could.

Bud was a loving husband, father, grandfather and brother who always thought of others first. He was the family historian and story teller who kept the memories alive. Bud graduated from Linden McKinley High School and Columbus State School of Nursing. Bud was in the U.S. Navy, worked for the USPS, and was ultimately the Director of Home Healthcare for multiple agencies. He was a talented woodworker, played the bagpipes, and was a handyman extraordinaire. Bud loved Irish music and attending the Dublin Irish Festival. 

Before he died, Bud got to visit Ireland, which was a dream of his.  I never saw him as excited as when he talked about all the places he had been and how he had met extended family members in Ireland who were as thrilled to meet him as he was to be there.  As a fellow traveler, I am so happy he got to experience that before he passed.  It also reminds me that we do this for a reason.

Thanks… I’ll start the blog now.

I slept better last night, but the getting up at 4am and then falling back asleep was still a little rough.  So I took a Tylenol PM and slept through until noon.  My thought here is to try to stay awke until 4:20am or so and then try to sleep straight through.  I may change my mind around 3am, but that’s my idea for now.  It was another nice day here, with great weather and a pretty slow day for trucks.  I have started a spreadsheet by the way (shocking right?) that will show the number of trucks we process each day and the hours the trucks came in.  That way in the final analysis we can talk about hours we actually worked versus hours we were just here.

They finished grading the road today

They finished grading the road today

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This machine is on the loud side so glad that is done

I’ve been really thinking about why I feel so much more relaxed in this job than in others we have done, and I think it comes down to the fact that it’s really a one person job.  Yes, you need two people because folks have to sleep, but at anytime one of us can be doing something else while the other works the gate.  Even when you are working the gate there has been downtime.  We can look at Facebook, read, watch a little TV, or play computer games.  Really pretty much whatever we want, as long as we can stop and deal with people entering or exiting. The important thing I think is the mindset.  If we fell into the trap of seeing each truck as an interruption we would be pretty unhappy, but instead we view it as each break is an extra bonus.  Splitting the job gives us lots of time off and if someone needs to leave or do a household task the other person can cover for them.  Since the pace up to this point has been so reasonable those far, it feels like a fair exchange.  Basically, despite the 24/7 seven day a week shift I feel like I have a life.  That is not something I felt at either the beet harvest or Christmas Trees.  Again, it’s early days, but that’s where we both are for right now.

Lee is pretty happy too.  If you haven’t noticed you can tell when he is in a particularly good mood because he brings “the funny” to the blogs. When he’s not feeling it he simply does a grammar check and off he goes.  Today, he spent a couple hours reorganizing the basement and he really loves that.  He found a few items he could get rid of and was happy about saving the weight as much as gaining more space. He also discovered why our furnace isn’t working again.  The duct work was not reconnected properly when Camping World finished the work and it came off. We are hoping that once it is reconnected the furnace will keep running.  It’s good to know what is going on and Lee is going to leave it for them to see and fix when we take the RV back for the axle.  Still haven’t heard from the warranty company if the work was approved, but Lee will be calling tomorrow.  Then we will be ordering the part and as soon as this job is done (or April 1st whichever comes first) we will head back to San Antonio and get all the repair work done.

Upper left corner of pic see how duct ring isn't sealed flush

In the center of the image you can see that the ducting wasn’t properly attached and has just fallen off on the back side. So there’s a 4″ hole in the side of the furnace just blowing hot air into the basement area. And that back side is almost impossible to get to.

And one of the seals was just laying there

And here’s another piece just laying on the basement floor. Not only was it not taped to the furnace, the ducting was not secured to the flange. Sloppy, sloppy work.

We are also both happy that I’ve been able to start cooking again.  Lee covers for me with trucks while I am making the meal, and then I’ll usually get up if a truck comes in.  I’ve tried several new recipes that have been on my list in the last few days and even though they weren’t all “recipe book worthy” it was still fun.  Those were things we had no time for during Beets or Christmas Trees and being able to spend time on the little things really helps.

We did get a call that there would be a one day delay in bringing us more water, but we were sort of prepared for that so were able to say it was no problem.  We are going to make sure we take what is left in the storage tank and put it in our freshwater tank, and then do that every week until we get back to full.  We are also trying to be as pleasant as possible about things in order to hopefully show them that the water tank issue was an anomaly and we can go with the flow.  I worked for a guy once who called it “putting chips in the emotional bank account” and that is completely true.  When you are dealing with coworkers it’s important that you give as much as you take so the equation is somewhat balanced.  Every time you are nice or helpful or do something for the other person a chip goes in their emotional bank account.  Then when it’s your turn to need something usually you can cash in a chip and it’s no issue.  Take too much, or as in our case, take when nothing has been deposited, and there is always resentment.  You might be thinking it’s that person’s job, so they need to do the right thing, but don’t kid yourself.  People are people and everyone hates feeling pushed.  We know we had to push a little to get the tank cleaned so we need to make sure we give back for a while before making any further requests. It’s kind of a harsh way to look at things, but it is also very practical and kind of takes the emotion out of the equation.

And we also turned of the generator for a while today to see what it was like with less noise.  It was fine, but I forgot to turn off the refrigerator and a couple other items so we overloaded our inverter a little before we made the adjustments.  I liked it being quiet, although of course the fence painters came during that time period and ran their compressor for awhile lol. Still it was good to know we can run off solar in a pinch and I liked the little noise break.  The generator isn’t bad, it’s just ever present, and we keep the backside windows closed when it’s on which restricts air flow a little.  We had a lovely breeze today so turning it off and opening the windows was a nice change of pace.  I also didn’t think about the fact that the water pump was connected to the generator so it was kind of funny when I turned it off and then immediately went to do dishes.  Lesson learned.  By the way, the water pressure is pretty decent and with our  Oxygenic shower head  we can take nice showers. I have to shower everyday, but I have switched to Suave 2 in 1 shampoo    and my showers run between 3-5 minutes.  I never was a person who took long showers before so making this adjustment for me has been pretty easy.  I am NOT a fan of the marine showers where you shut off the water in the middle though.  I’ve done it in a pinch, but I just don’t feel clean.  Lee’s taking a 7 minute shower for now so we will see how our water consumption is after a full week.

Good day and not too eventful, so I will start combining days into one blog post and get it out when it gets to a certain length.  As nice as it is to have something to talk about, a quiet blog is not necessarily a bad thing.  Frankly I could use a few days of woke up, nothing exciting happened, went to bed!

y009

 

Day 7

I managed to stay up until 4am for the first time last night and I got quite a bit done.  Worked on the recipe book, wrote this blog, and finalized the tracking spreadsheet.  The first week showed some interesting numbers and it really brings to light how subjective “whether the job is worth the money” can be, especially in these temporary positions.

tracking-sheet

This is definitely a one person job, and I say that because the other person could theoretically leave or work a second job from the home during their off hours.  So the hourly rate is calculated based on that assumption.  Gate guarding pays a flat fee per day, so the calculations are based on that number. I tracked the hourly rate three ways, and as you can see it is very different depending on how you look at it.  If you are a person who believes if you are working when you are available, then the hourly rate is very low at $5.21 an hour.  If you look at when the first truck arrived and when the last truck left, then the hourly rate (at least for these shorter days is much different at between $10 and $11 an hour.  I took it a step further though, and also calculated an hourly wage based on actual hours worked.  I did this by eliminating any hours where no trucks came at all, basing that on our daily reports we can run.  The thought is if you have extended downtime you can do other things so you aren’t actually working.  In order to decide how to choose when to “Stop the clock”, I chose any time we went a full hour without an entry or exit, which admittedly is something arbitrary, because I thought that would be like having a lunch break.  Removing those hours raises the hourly rate significantly and on one slow day brought the wage to $14.71 an hour.

Now these figures are without getting traffic at night, which we are expecting to change soon, and I am sure that will change the equation.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out as we get busier.  It doesn’t really matter which of these three you feel is a fair way to assess how we are getting paid for our time, but I do think it is important to know before you enter into one of these jobs.  For right now at least I was quite pleased with the adjusted hours rate, but then again that might change.  I just thought I would share how we are looking at it before we do the final analysis.

I did have a little trouble going to sleep this morning, and eventually woke up around 10:30. 6 hours sleep was really not enough, but no way I was getting back to sleep.  It was colder today and occasionally rainy and windy, but because traffic was still pretty slow it wasn’t that bad. We took turns watching the gate throughout most of the day as one of us dealt with housekeeping items. One of the things we needed to do was followup with the warranty company.  We never heard back on whether the claim was approved and I have to say I wasn’t surprised when the claim was denied. Some warranty companies deny high priced claims as a matter of course, and this expense would take us over what we had paid for the policy.  Lee, however, was having none of it and slowly worked his way up the food chain appealing the claim.  They stated they denied the axle fix because no component failed.  We stated it was bent and needed replaced because the experts stated it was bent, and there’s evidence of that in both damage to the tire as well as damage to the shackle. Oddly we had a simultaneous claim for a bent front jack and they approved that, but they wouldn’t agree to get the axle replaced.

While Lee was still working on it, I started researching getting a Mor-Ryde System and requested a quote from the company Many people we know in the lifestyle have upgraded to Mor-Ryde including  Howard and Linda, who had theirs done in 2010.  Here’s his blog post on the installation, which has some great pictures and even better explanation if you are curious about what a suspension upgrade is. One of the additional benefits is it can also increase your weight limits on your trailer. For this reason alone, we talked about getting this done from the very beginning, but the timing was never right.  We always knew we would probably invest in it one day though and have the money in savings to cover it. What makes it difficult is not only the money but the timing.  The installations are preferably done in Elkhart, Indiana at the factory, but because of work commitments we can’t make it there until early October.  Now we are facing whether we should roll the dice and continue as is until then or look at other alternatives.

A friend of ours reached out to us and told us they were upgrading both axles to 7,000 pound Dexter and paying a reasonably priced $1700 all in.  That’s much cheaper than a Mor-Ryde system, but while it would give us that extra weight capacity, it would not give us the disc brakes and independent suspension a Mor-Ryde would. Still it is much more budget friendly than the $5K – $7K I am expecting to be quoted, and we may end up going that route.  Also the the Dexter Axles can be done in other states and I am still not sure if Mor-Ryde can be. Oddly I am leaning more towards the more expensive Mor-Ryde solution and Lee is leaning more towards the Dexter.  That’s odd, because usually I am the penny pincher when it comes to maintenance items.  I’ve just heard such great things about the Mor-Ryde system I am a fan. Plus the additional weight would allow us to run comfortably with full tanks, something we don’t like to do at this point because we run so close on weight.

What I do in situations like this is reach out to friends in the community and I also post something on the RV-Dreams Forum.  The RV-Dreams Forum has a strict “be nice” policy and strives to be the friendliest RV forum on the net.  For my money it definitely is, and it is the only forum that I am actively involved in.  It’s not perfect of course, no forum is, but generally the information is pretty solid and even if folks disagree, they are generally respectful about it.  Nothing worse than asking a question and having it devolve into a flame war that ends up not helping the person at all.

So we are collecting information and we are definitely not in a panic.  There are some things you should prepare for long-term if you plan on full-timing and upgrading the suspension (assuming you buy a fifth wheel with a basic suspension) is one of them.  This is exactly why we have contingency funds, and although I wish we could have waited a little longer before spending them, once we are in that position I am going to choose the right solution.  Think of it as the foundation of a house.  Something is wrong with your foundation, you don’t mess around with that.  You get it fixed and fixed well.  The suspension system is the foundation of our home and worth the investment.

On the plus side we did get an offer from another gate guarding company today.  We wouldn’t leave this contract, but I found it promising that there are other jobs that are becoming available.  We still have no idea when this assignment will be complete, but if there is enough time between the end and when we have to head towards Vegas we may try to pick up another contract. Overall we are doing pretty good, and Lee is in reorganizing heaven. He gets very excited when he fills another trash bag with stuff to get rid of. I am just enjoying the luxury of being able to sit and relax for awhile.  That may change as the tempo of the job picks up but for right now it’s pretty great.


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17 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 6 and 7

  1. Great post, as always! I do have a question, and it may be too early to tell, but are you finding it hard to not really have any time off? Between beets, trees and now gates (although gates seems to be a much better job) it’s been quite awhile since you’ve both had real time off. Do you feel like this is still better than the sticks and bricks? I ask because while I’m still contemplating going full time some day, my worry is the advantages of full timing (travel, seeing new places and experiencing new things) may not be the reality if I have to work lower paying jobs, with longer times without breaks and in less than desirable locations to make it viable. Just thought I’d do an emotional check in to see what you are feeling- still worth it? Again, thanks so much for ALL of the information!!! I follow a few RV blogs but yours is by far, my favorite!!!

    • That is a great question and my short answer is yes, for me, it’s worth it. Couple reasons. First, occasionally I do go out and look at “real” jobs and my stomach tightens up. As unpleasant as some of these moments have been I’m not in a big hurry to jump back into the corporate life again. Second I judge my life by the pictures. Last year, despite the schedule, we took a ton of great pictures. Family, friends, and beautiful places is more than I can ask for and I have lots of those moments captured. Still more than in the years prior to going on the road. This year I don’t know. At the end of the year, I’ll look at the pictures and see. I had “time off” in my old life but I was mainly either so exhausted I just begged on the couch or I was traveling or working on the weekends. Even when I was “off” I rarely was able to mentally shut it off. These jobs are done when they are done which is a nice feeling.

      The main reason I would go back to the corporate environment would be quality of work and the respect that goes along with it. If have to work, I would like to do something that feels good and I just don’t know if I am at a place in my life to give that feeling. Of accomplishment up forever. I honestly don’t know though. Lee I think could give it up if we could find the right combination, but I miss the challenge. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

      • Loved your point about judging the quality of your life based on the pictures! That was a really profound way to measure how things are going!

        I can completely relate to the feeling of being so exhausted during your vacation from a “traditional” job that it’s not really restful and rejuvenating. I feel that way quite a bit in my current career unfortunately.

        It’s also pretty insightful that you realize your personality may not be fully suited (at least at this point) to permanently giving up a career life that doesn’t provide you with meaningful work and an environment in which you are respected for your experience and expertise… I never thought of that and while I like to think I’m more in line with Lee at this point, that’s all supposition (wishful thinking?)on my part since I can’t leave my current life for a variety of reasons. Really great thoughts! Thanks much for sharing!!

  2. Hi Lee and Tracy, my wife and I have enjoyed your posts from the beginning, keep up the good work.
    I had a question about the gate guarding. What do you do with your trash?

    Thanks, John and Michele…

    • We are keeping the bags in the back of the trucks and the company picks them up once a week when they bring water. So far no issues with animals getting in the trash, but it is a bit of a concern. Despite our best efforts we generate a ton of trash, and this can definitely be an issue for us in a place without a container.

  3. We too want the Mor-Ryde put on our Vanleigh. When I called they spoke of upgrading the wheels and rims too. When it was done it was close to 8K. We enjoying the job and keep up the good work you two.

    • Thanks Lola. I got some quotes and will be breaking that down in the next post. Lots of options there and the quote is RV specific so it will vary from rig to rig. It’s a big investment, we just have to decide if we want to put a bandaid on our bite the bullet.

  4. You sound so much more relaxed. Very happy for you guys! Maybe we will consider this one day.
    We did opt for the Morryde. Can compare much to not having because we added before we hit the road. I just felt it was worth the investment not to beat our rig up. We also got the 8000# axles instead of the 7000# Dexters that were on it. As you said, it gave me a little more peace of mind for our towing capacity.

  5. This job sounds like a good fit for what you need right now. Cash in and down time!!! Lee makes me laugh…just like Bill… loves to clean out and reorganize;o))

  6. Sorry about Bud. If you take out “Irish” and “bagpipes” and replace them with “Italian” and “Frank Sinatra” respectively, he sounds a LOT like my dad. I’m sure I met him, but sounds like I wish I knew him.

  7. Have you considered talking to the gate guarding couple that reached out to you to see if one of them would be interested in covering your gate for a few hours so you and Lee could have some time together, and you would cover for them? Seems like it would be nice to be able to shop together or go out for dinner or take in a movie.

    Any snakes yet? 🙂

    • No snakes but keeping a sharp eye out. I look under the stairs and chair every time I walk out and think about your Q story 🙂. We are not working for the same company, but if we were that would be a great idea. During orientation we were told sometimes they would cover for a couple of hours to allow people to go to dinner, but since that person is part-time as of this year not sure if that will happen. If it does great, but not counting on it. It’s probably better for the budget anyways and there are local places that I could go into town and get take out from. Our account manager gave me a list of places she has tried.

  8. I have a question. Don’t answer, if you think it is too personal. You both quit your careers at a fairly young age to pursue your dreams. How do you plan for your retirement years working hourly jobs that don’t move you towards a retirement nest egg?

    • That’s a great question. I have about $150k in a 401k account that is in a lock box. Although this is not enough it’s not insignificant. I was concerned about “checking out” during my prime earning years, BUT since we won’t get social security until we are 70 and I always figured I would need to keep working in some capacity until then I don’t worry about it so much. Also, the more boomers that retire he more job opening their will be theoretically, so I may find it easier to go back to corporate life at a later age then in the past. Either way it’s 20 years. A lot can happen in 20 years and I decided not to wait that long to take a break.

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