First Time Gate Guarding – Day 8 and 9

Day 8

Another productive night last night although I had to wake Lee up at 3:51am because I simply couldn’t stay awake a moment longer.  Luckily I did fall asleep unaided though, and slept through until 11:15am.  I mentioned Tylenol PM as a means to get to sleep in my last post and wanted to say a friend of mine who works as a pharmaceutical rep did reach out and say to be wary of taking it too often.  According to her, the acetaminophen can do liver damage if taken every day, especially when combined when alcohol.  Since I rarely drink I didn’t worry to much about the last part,  but appreciated the advice.  It’s important to me that I can sleep most nights unaided, mainly because I am concerned that over time over the counter sleep aids wouldn’t work anymore.  Thankfully the combination of a fan and my Dohm white noise machine seemed to do the trick and I slept very well.

I was pretty groggy when I walked outside though and saw that our gate guarding companie’s tech support was onsite.  I was a little embarrassed with the serious “bed head” hairdo, but he seemed to take it in stride.  He brought us an AT&T cell phone booster and we saw immediate results from it.  The CEl-Fi booster system is not cheap costing around $700, but as I said the difference was dramatic.  We went from having 1-2 bars to full bars immediately when he turned it on.  It’s omni-directional, unlike the one we have that you have to point at a tower, and seems more powerful.  The major downside for RV life though is it’s not completely weather proof and you still need to find a high place to mount it.  Still it is kind of interesting and Lee is going to do some comparisons with the one we have versus what they provided while we are here.  A $700 purchase is definitely not in our near future, but it will be good to know and it’s a great benefit for us because we have AT&T and all of our devices are receiving the boost.

Speaking of that I wanted to talk about our cell coverage.  We started with AT&T because back in October 2014 we locked in a great double data deal with them and don’t want to lose it.  Eventually I did pick up a second Verizon phone, because I was running into some issues up in Montana where we didn’t have AT&T and I was working remotely.  At this point though I am spending $67 for a basic phone with minimal data that I rarely if ever need.  AT&T has been working fine in almost every place we have been and has actually been an advantage in certain places like Texas.  So I spent some time talking to AT&T via Help Chat on the computer (I really like when companies offer that service) and discovered I can move my phone number over to an old Iphone 4 Lee has and it would only cost $15 a month.  This would save us $60 a month on our cell bill which is a significant savings.  Eventually I will want to upgrade of course, but I will wait until they are offering some deals with a free phone if you sign a contract.  Right now they aren’t offering anything at all and frankly the Iphone 4 will be an upgrade from what I have.  We could do it all in the mail, but think it will be easier to an ATT store, I just need to call one and make sure only one of us can go.  Since one phone is in my name and the other is in Lee’s it could require both of us, which of course we can’t do.  Still pretty excited about the opportunity to save some money, so we are going to work on that as soon as we can.

Speaking of expenses we got some quotes back from Mor-Ryde and for our rig the basic 8K system will be $3,600.  This is actually very reasonable and I am pretty sure Lee is on board with it.  We are going to continue escalating with the warranty company, but it looks like this will be a good choice for us.  The cost is so low because we are going to do it in stages.  The disc brakes would be another $2,600, but we are going to wait on those and see if they can upgrade our existing ones, and the H rated tires ($615 per wheel) will also wait until our newish tires need replaced.  We won’t get the additional carry benefit without the new tires, but we can upgrade at any time once we have a need.  They also allow you to stay onsite at their facility and the three day installation seems very reasonable.  We haven’t completely finalized our decision yet, but I am feeling good about the choices.  By the way, our friend Bill has been awesome through all of this.  Bill is a guy who loves researching and is more than happy to do it on his friend’s behalf.  He’s spent tons of time on the phone with Lee talking both this and our battle with the warranty company through with him and he’s been super helpful.  All I can say is everyone should have a Bill in their life, because having someone to talk these things through with is great.

We received our acceptance into the gate guarding Facebook group and it’s been very eye opening.  These are all working gate guards and they are extremely frank about their experiences.  We are learning quite a bit and it’s great learning more from an experienced community.  Speaking of gate guarding, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain why these long shifts bother me so much less than the other jobs we have done.  The closer I can come is to use a babysitting analogy.  If you ever babysat as a kid, doing it when the kids were awake was a ton of work.  Kids require a lot of attention and if you were any good at it, you didn’t get much of a break.  Once in awhile though you got a babysitting gig at night when the kids were asleep.  That was awesome as you could watch TV, talk on the phone, and eat popcorn.  The parents generally paid you less money for those jobs, but the work was super easy.  So far this has mostly been like a night babysitting job and since the work is easier, the low pay doesn’t really bother me.  If the work gets hard I expect that to change, but hopefully that explains it.  Your mileage may definitely vary on this though, just trying to explain why this feels so much different.

What else.  Well they brought fresh water and pumped out the sewer tank today. I spoke to another gate guarding employee about how long he thought the assignment would last and he felt they would “find what they were looking for” and three wells would be dug.  Each well takes about 45 days and there is some overlap so that should take us into March which would be great.  It’s not guaranteed of course.  If the first well doesn’t produce they may decide to not continue, but since the ranch next door has been so successful odds are they will find it here too.   On a completely different note,  I tried to make corn dogs for dinner with a new recipe…NOT a success, and we both ended up not eating it for dinner.  That rarely happens, but when it does Lee is always a good sport about it, and hey, they can’t all be winners.  We also saw a beautiful sunset tonight. The sun sets behind the rig and is mainly in the trees, but I made a point of watching it tonight and it was pretty.  Not as pretty as sunsets on the ocean, but it was nice.

y028

Tonight I am finishing a project with my pictures I started last night, starting to gather tax documentation together, and going through some emails, working on the recipe book, and of course writing this blog. Boy it’s nice not having to squeeze these types of things in around everything else.  Having this alone time at night has been nice.  We love each other, but when you live together in a small space and work together long days you rarely get any alone time.  I wouldn’t want it to be like this all the time, but the break has been good after the intensity of the last several months.

Day 9

I woke up this morning pretty warm as the bedroom temp had raised to 80 degrees.  I was a little worried about that when I went to bed, because the temperature switch from 4am to 12pm can be pretty significant.  It’s a shame I am such a light sleeper because there was a beautiful breeze, but the truck noise through the window would definitely wake me up.  Lee and I talked about it and I guess he’ll need to turn off the heater and turn on the AC when the temperature swings this much and try not to wake me up.  We’ll give that a try going forward, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

Despite being a little disoriented I started my morning routine.  One of the things I like to do is read blog comments and there were some really thoughtful ones this morning.  I love when people ask questions, because it makes this more of a conversation than a monologue, and since not everyone reads the comments I wanted to share one here.

Doug asked, “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?” and it was such a good question I thought I would also answer it here.

I spent a ton of time thinking about this before going fulltime, so the answer is not going to be a short one.  I knew from watching my Mom that between 50 and 60 were “prime earning years” and thats’s when most people  worked on getting out of debt and really socking some money away. At that point, I had around $150K in a 401K account, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough to keep me comfortable in retirement.  That knowledge certainly gave me pause, but I also knew as a Gen X’er my situation was going to be a little different than the Boomer generation.  We can’t take middle-tier social security until we are 70 and I always assumed I would need to work until then. In my current position (assuming I wasn’t laid off at some point) I was facing 20 years of hard/intense work ahead of myself and had no expectation I would actually live long enough (or be in good enough health) to ever enjoy my “retirement years.”

So I had two choices.  Take the time now, with the understanding 20 years is a long time and I could reenter the professional work force later or continue to plug along and hope my health held out.  I should mention the only reason I had the choice at all is because we were in a solid debt position.  Yes, many people make a ton of money between 50 and 60, but they also spend it.  They either get out of the debt they have created for themselves with school loans or kid expenses and/or they spend it on very expensive vacations.

Don’t get me wrong, those are valid choices, but we went another way, and I fully credit Lee for that.  We helped the kids a little with college (and paid for two weddings) but only to the extent we could pay in cash.  I also took advantage of my work’s tuition reimbursement program and ended up getting my bachelors and my MBA only spending about $7K out of pocket.  Yes, it took me 8 years and it was hard to not go into debt for the kids, but again Lee was adamant.  So at 47 when we started talking about this all we had was the mortgage, car loan, and about $10K in debt.  Never would have been possible if that wasn’t the case.

So the short answer is I was fully aware when I made the decision and we have put the 401K in a lock box (it’s grown to $169K since I kept contributing the first year I was still on the road and was working).   When we get to the point where we are down to $10K in regular savings (we have around $40K since the beginning and so far have maintained that balance) we will get better paying jobs, at least for a little while.

We have some friends who did this by the way.  When the stock market crashed they left the road and went back to work and when it recovered they went back on the road.  There are no rules here, and 20 years is a really long time.  I think folks who are researching (myself included) think it’s a decision that has to last forever and really it does not.  Family , finances, and personal healthcare are all factors that can change quickly and can’t always be predicted. Plus for me there is another factor as well.

I have been trying to find a way to express how I feel about missing parts of my old job and thankfully a reader Dineen captured it perfectly.  She said, “…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.” Exactly!!  Thanks so much Dineen and thanks Doug for the great question.  If you would like to ask a question  please feel free to comment or email us at camperchronicles@gmail.com.  Either Lee or I answer the emails privately or if the topic has value for a broader audience we will post them here.

So back to the daily account.  I’m actually sitting outside writing this today on the laptop and that is working great.  It’s a beautiful day, sunny and 66 with a light breeze.  The only problem is the darn bees.  Wow they are aggressive down here, and even without a brightly colored shirt they are all around.  I am obviously not a fan, although thankfully I am not allergic. So asked Lee if he could pop down to the Dollar General and see if they had some kind of a trap we can use. Yes I am concerned about the bee population, but as I am typing this there are 5-6 in close proximity.  My love of nature has limits (Deb you would be freaking out lol). I even changed my orange socks to white ones and that actually seemed to help a little.  Any splash pf color and they are all over it and I draw the line at having bees land on my ankles. He came back with a Raid Fly Stick and two Yellow Jacket Traps  and hopefully that will do the trick.

Raid Fly Stick

Raid Fly Stick

Rescue Yellow Jacket Traps

Rescue Yellow Jacket Traps

I also wanted to mention we have stopped drinking pop/soda and so far so good.  Lee is strictly drinking his tea and I have started making ice tea  and I bought some single serving Country Time Lemonade packs  which are great.  If I feel the need for a sweet drink I put filtered water in a small glass and use a portion of the pack until I get the flavor just right.  Sometimes I like it a little more sour and use less, other times I load up the sweetness.  It’s a real budget saver and much more economical than a whole can of pop/soda, half of which I ended up throwing away anyways. Plus, I am sure it is better for me health wise. 

The only two exciting things that happened today were an oil truck got stuck going back to the water well and it took two big tractors to pull him out.  That all happened rather late and he had to dump all of his water in a field to lighten the load and then come back with another one.  Opening and shutting the gate at night is a bit of a challenge because the new lights they set up do not light the entire area, but I am getting used to it.  I also got another new bird which was pretty exciting.  The Harris’s Hawk (cool because that is my maiden name) is unusual for this area and the only raptor that nests and hunts in groups.  We saw some raptors in the tree across the street from us, but every time I got close they flew away.  This one was on the pole and I got a couple of shots from the rig with my long lense but as soon as I took two steps towards it it flew away.  It’s cool though we know what is living over there and hopefully I can get some better pics.  We originally thought it was the same bird as the other day, but this yellow band gave it away.  Very fun!

harriss-hawk

Harris’s Hawk

Overall it was a good day, but I swear as soon as I finish one task another two pop up.  That’s what happens when you blow stuff off for several months and then finally get a chance to be settled.  I have to keep reminding myself I have lots of time and slow down my pace, but my natural inclination to get things done and over with as quickly as possible is working against me.  The last thing I want is to trade self-created stress for the real stress we are no longer in though, so I am working to keep a grip on myself.  Plus there is a finite list of things to do and sooner or later I will work my way through it.


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13 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 8 and 9

  1. Trace – you might try liquid water enhancers – you can get them at Walmart in a long list of flavors. Use as little or as much as you want and you don’t have to fool with powder.

  2. Tracy, Many RVer’s have used Trailer Life magazine to request help with warranty issues. You would not believe how many people get ignored by the manufacture. Trailer Life sends them a letter explaining the problem and tells them the complaint will be published. WOW!! results happen quick. You need to send them a detailed letter, photos, bills, receipts. Good Luck

  3. Thanks, Tracy for the shout out! 😊 Also a thanks to Doug for his great question and your well-reasoned perspective on it. I’m 49 and my husband is 54, so this retirement question (along with healthcare and earning enough money on the road) is a significant consideration for us as well. We both have secure, well-paying jobs with good benefits that we’ve been at for years (I work for the state and he works at the hospital in town) and while these are good jobs, we both are pretty burned out and are questioning is this all there is and what is next? You always have such balanced and insightful perspectives on topics and issues that resonate with me. That’s why I just love this blog (that and Lee’s humor and love of pies, of course 😉)

    Also, kudos on giving up pop/soda! I was a serious Diet Coke drinker- probably drinking 6-8 a day- and when we decided to ditch the stuff mainly for cost considerations, we bought a soda stream. I found what I really missed was the bubbles. I haven’t tried their syrups but do add some liquid crystal light to the water. Strawberry lemonade is my personal favorite. Might be another option to mix things up? I really find this to fill the void-lol!

    • Dineen, I couldn’t agree more! This was a great topic and Tracy we thank you for a peek into your savings and thought process. We are in the same place as Dineen and you demonstrate it is possible!

      Now question on your upgrades, hindsight being 20/20, would you have gone with the H rated tires, Moryde and disc brakes from the start if you knew then what you know now? We are looking at a unit that has all that but it is obviously a bit more expensive than another models we are considering. All other things equal, would you have purchased the 5th wheel with those options up front?

      Thanks for the continued honest account of the full time life!

      • Great question Julie. In retrospect, yes I would have done the upgrade while I still had corporate money coming in. And I would have scheduled the work. We were in such a hurry to go, go ,go though I understand how it happened. I would NOT limit my RV search to models with the Mor-Ryde. Buy what you want and then upgrade. I personally don’t buy that those models “built for full timers” are any better than taking a rig and upgrading it. That’s just me though. YMMV . Thanks for the validation on posting the financials. I was a little leery about the 401k but since I think the reader needs to understand the complete picture to find the account credible it was necessary in my mind.

  4. If you are a light sleeper (Julia is), you might try molded foam earplugs. They block out the noises that can wake you up. They take a little getting used to, but are so worth it! I use them every day.

  5. Thank you for your thorough answer to my retirement question. Not sure I agree, but I’m from the baby boomer generation. Things were more black and white during my working years. Work and then retire to travel.

    I did used to think it would be nice to travel first and work later, but it was just a dream.

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