No one showed up to fix the gate in the morning, but that’s OK because we had our handy dandy Jim Jamb in place. Plus, I can’t stress how much of a game changer opening just one half of the gate has been. So much easier! Plus the heat broke and it’s a beautiful 75 degrees as I am writing this with a nice wind and just wonderful to be outside. The weather really has been mostly great. As New England is getting pounded with snow and school closures it is not lost on me how big of a deal it is not having to deal with that kind of weather anymore. I spent many years driving an hour plus each way to work in crazy weather. That’s all gone and I am truly grateful for it. Being able to mostly follow the weather has been a huge benefit of the lifestyle and one which has a day-today impact on the quality of our lives. It’s also not something we ever take for granted, so I wanted to take a moment to mention it.
I also wanted to talk a little bit about the videos. Lee has managed, despite everything going on, to keep creating family videos and the responses from people have been great. We have lots of footage (going back to 1982) that our friends and family have never seen and needless to say they are having a good time watching it. He just finished Halloween of 1999 and I think that is my favorite video so far, because it has lots of the kids just playing and ignoring the camera. Kids are kids and tend to ham it up, but he was able to get some great moments where they were just doing their thing, and it is so fun to watch. Plus at Christmas that year there is a wonderful moment where I present our oldest (Kyrston) with her first Harry Potter book. She was skeptical (she was a big Goosebumps fan at the time) and it’s interesting watching me talk her into trying it knowing now what a huge part of our lives it would be later. All of my girls loved those books and my youngest in particular has practically memorized them. That moment started what would become some wonderful parenting moments involving reading and talking about the books, watching the movies together, and ultimately visiting Universal Studios with my youngest and watching her get tears in her eyes as a teenager as she saw what was in her imagination come to life. Amazing.
I love books and I married a guy who loved books also, but it wasn’t a sure thing that our kids would also be avid readers. It takes some work getting kids to read in an electronic age and you need to find something that really speaks to them and then feed that interest until eventually it expands into other things. First Goosebumps, and then Harry Potter helped us do that, and it was one of my proudest moments as a parent when we were downsizing to become full timers and the kids took so many of our books. These videos are helping me remember those moments, and it’s really been wonderful to watch many of them. In all fairness it’s a somewhat sanitized version of things as Lee usually takes out those moments when we were not at our best, but at this time in my life I am totally fine with that.
I’m mentioning all this because it’s an important benefit of gate guarding that I don’t want to get lost. Our contract specifically states, “When not logging in vehicles, Contractor may engage in personal activities including sleeping, eating, reading, watching television, household chores, or other legal personal activity.” and even goes so far as to say “such personal activities may comprise the majority of the contractor’s time”. That’s pretty specific and I think it makes it clear that we are not “getting away with anything” by doing this personal stuff, but the understanding that that is how it works is built into the job. Generally, from what we have read, the less personal time the higher the wage. For example, our friend down the road is on a very busy gate and their rate is much higher than ours. Rates also go up if the weather is particularly inclement. The Oklahoma jobs for example pay higher, because they get snow up there, and of course tornado season. So we definitely get that the rate and the weather/activity level is linked and as independent contractors we agree with the approach. The problem, as we recently discover, is what happens when the rules change?
The contract is very specific about that as well, stating that we need to perform our duties to any safety or quality specifications set by the landowner or oil company. That’s totally fair, and since this is a new versus well established gate we recognize that to some extent we are running into normal start up issues. But what if they told us we needed to pick up trash around the gate because it was a quality issue? In some cases we have heard folks are forced to wear full PPE gear in the hot conditions and this is definitely a factor that leads people to not take these jobs. Many people absolutely refuse to take gates in West Texas at all because of issues with illegal immigrants. These are all factors, and as newbies we are learning what we are willing to do and for what money. That’s not only normal but also healthy, in my opinion, and understanding what a big deal the “free time” is to us, especially at this rate, is a good thing. It was a little painful getting there, which is more a function of our personalities than the nature of the events, but that’s OK too. Personal growth is always a little painful.
Tonight ended up ending the busiest I have been in a while. Lots of large sand trucks coming in and out about every 15 minutes starting at around 2:30 am. I still had time to get lots of work done on my recipe book though, and I am very close to getting the pictures loaded. There are a couple of recipes I never took pictures of, so I will have to go back and remake those, but not a huge deal. Also, no one ever came to fix the gate, but the guy from the construction company did stop and tell me he had put in a work order for some guys to come out, but they had been sent on another job. I’m just glad that Lee found a workable solution.
The day started off nice with a cool breeze but a little sun and almost perfect temps. The wind kicked up a little though and since no one came to fix the gate, I was happy the Jim Jamb was still operating well. Lee has also added a piece of rebar on the side so that you can swing that portion of the gate open and stand closer to the RV when the big trucks come through. I like that a lot. The ranch owner stopped by around lunchtime and made a point to come over and talk to me. He saw what we had done and apologized for not finishing the conversation with us yesterday. That really surprised me, but I also appreciated it. He also said that it was obvious what we were doing was working and to go ahead and drill holes in the gate if we needed to. I told him that was OK, they would come out and give us a permanent fix eventually, but this would definitely work with the clamps in the short-term. I did appreciate what he said, but I am also very glad we have a solution that didn’t involve spending money or doing anything permanent to the gate.
When Lee was done with his lunch, I finally went and got a haircut. As you can see from the video yesterday my hair was pretty out of control so I went to the only local place in town. It was interesting because the only person who worked there spoke very little English and despite the run down look of the place from the outside, it was very nice inside. This is the third time I have gone and there is always so much of a wait I leave, but this time I absolutely decided to stay. There was a handwritten sign on the door that said out to lunch for 30 minutes, but I had no idea if I was in the beginning or end of that cycle. Thankfully it was a very short wait and I was second in line once she started again. Part of why it takes so long is she really takes her time, which is nice, and I was very pleased with both my haircut and the price of $18. You might think getting your hair done by someone who speaks little English is risky, but I have done it a few times and evidently my haircut speaks for itself.
I wanted to take a moment and talk about that actually. Before we went on the road I got what I think of as my “adult hair” and boy this has been an easy haircut to maintain. It wasn’t easy to come by though. In 2012, I actually spent $250 on a hair transformation experience in Vegas to get to this place and I am very glad that I did. I never, ever came close to paying that much for a haircut, but when I went short I wanted something that would look good on my face, so I was willing to pay for a high end salon at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was worth every penny as I only had a general idea of what I was looking for and the stylist cut my hair 5 times to get it exactly right. Let me just show you.
Now of course it would never look like that again, because I am just not that good with hair, but I told him that and he showed me some easy techniques to make it manageable. Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Styling Foam is awesome. Throw some in, and a quick brush and go. Lee and I were both worried though that the Super Cuts I used in Keene would not be able to maintain the style, but it turned out that was really easy. And ever since, I have been able to maintain this haircut with relative ease. I have had my hair cut by male barbers, in Mexico, Super Cuts, Great Clips, and small town places all over the country and it’s never been an issue. Even easier once I gave up worrying about the dye and just let it be the color it was. So hair doesn’t have to be a big drama when you got on the road, you really just need to find the right cut for you. And I love, love, LOVE this hair because it’s easy to manage and almost always looks good as long as I keep it trimmed. After 40 years of being unhappy with my hair, what a gift it was, and worth every penny.
On the way home I also stopped at the store and picked up a couple grocery items I needed to take pictures of some food for the recipe book. One recipe was Deb’s Olive Oil ice cream which is essentially vanilla ice cream lightly drizzled with olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt on top. I know it doesn’t sound good, but if you have never tried it, oh my…so good. In order to recreate the dish I had to take one for the team and get the ice cream and then of course I had to taste it and make sure it was as good as I remembered. It was actually better. Check out my food photography below. I am getting pretty good at it I think, but I may have to buy some more and take some more pictures just to be on the safe side lol.
It was a nice day and was capped off by a lunar eclipse around 6:42. It didn’t look like an eclipse so much as a shadow across the moon but still, pretty cool. It wasn’t that dramatic, but since those things often happen when we are in the wrong spot or on a cloudy night I was really glad we got to see it. I’m very excited we will be in the solar eclipse path this summer. I haven’t seen one of those since I was a little kid.
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