First Time Gate Guarding – Day 33

We had a really good day today.  The weather was really nice again, and the traffic was very light, pretty common for the weekends.  The guys who have been working on the water well are actually one ranch down this weekend, so that made traffic even lighter.  So lots of downtime, and the perfect time for Lee to finish a big project he’s been working on as soon as I woke up.  While I was asleep though he finally manged to capture a picture of the road runner who has been hanging out in the scrub area behind us.  Since I worry about snakes back there we are thrilled to have him, but he’s a bit camera-shy.  He’s a pretty big guy though, as large as a young chicken.

It's hanging out back by the generator

It’s hanging out back by the generator

Lee got this shot before it scampered away

Lee got this shot before it scampered away. (They’re very fast. They also do not respond to “Meep Meep”, in spite of what cartoons would have you believe. – Lee)

Once I was up and showered and Lee had lunch he started working on finishing a project.  As much as we love our front living room desk, it’s been a bit of a pain point that you sort of have to hunch over it.  (When we selected our rig, we knew we would make some changes. As built, the front living room has two equal slides out across from each other. In each one is a foldaway queen size air bed, which in folded up, is a medieval torture device disguised as what could loosely be described as a “couch”. Here is a photo taken at the RV show where we first saw it. – Lee)


We knew when decided to buy it that we would be either ordering it without the right hand couch, or removing that couch, in order to put in a desk, because we knew that we would need an actual desk to work at, instead of the makeshift desk areas that full timers often have. Little did we know that that was going to be a much bigger problem. If you look at the right hand couch, where the couch meets the floor what you can’t see is that the slideout bottom is not level with the floor. It’s actually up about 6 or 7 inches. That’s much better illustrated in this picture taken when our rig arrived, without the couch. – Lee



I won’t bore you with all the details of the desk build, but here’s a picture of it after it was finished.
If you like, you can read all about it here.


And here’s a picture of Hobie on the desk, just because.  


So the problem with having the desk in the slideout and having the floor under the desk 6 or 7 inches higher than the floor where the chair sits is that when you sit at the desk, and belly up to the front edge of it, your feet have to be up that high, which is really uncomfortable. If you don’t believe me, try it sometime. Sit right up against a desk, and get your feet flat, but up 7 inches. Incredibly uncomfortable. If you want to have your feet on the same level as the chair, then you can do that, but then in order to be close enough the desk to use it, you have to swing the chair sideways and it at a 45 degree angle to the desk, and then there’s nowhere to rest your left elbow, and your head is turned to the right. I know it might sound like a big deal, but imagine doing that for 4, 5, 6, 8 hours. It’s brutal. As illustrated in the image below. – Lee) 


Long hours of editing do cause him some back pain and he’s been trying to figure out a solution for some time


Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why not just get a keyboard drawer?”. Well, sure, that would allow me to sit back away from the edge of the desk, and be oriented correctly, and all that, but those things are flimsy, and usually just big enough for the keyboard. Nowhere to rest my wrists or elbows. Why would you want me to live like that? What did I ever do to you? No, I needed to extend the entire desktop back to allow me to sit under it and have enough room for the keyboard (a large old school buckling spring keyboard) my giant mouse pad, and my wrists and elbows. Originally I was going to build a light aluminum frame and have the entire desk top on a sliding rail that I could pull back, but that turned out to be way to be much build, because of the weight. Instead I finally decided to just build a desktop extension, in the style of a keyboard drawer, but bigger. 33″ wide by 20″ deep. What was bugging me the most was what to use as the “desktop”. I didn’t want to try to match stains, so I thought I would just go with a solid black, or white. But pre-made shelving material would be too thin and would bow, and I didn’t want to have to build any supporting framework. AND I doubted I could find it in the dimensions I was looking for. Plus I was concerned about the front edge being sharp and uncomfortable, and I don’t have a router to round off the edge. So I went to Home Depot in Laredo to wander around and see what I could find. I toyed with the idea of oak stair tread, because it has a nicely rounded nose, but it was really heavy, and still not deep enough. I was almost ready to give up when it occurred to me that I might be able to use counter top, as I did with the desktop. Not only did I find the exact same color and pattern counter top I used for the desk, but it was also on sale for 25% off since they are discontinuing it. I was able to get everything else I needed, and the next day I cut and primed the pieces and let them dry overnight so today I could finish up.  

The filing drawer boxes I use as desk pedestals are plastic, and while they are designed to hold a LOT of paper and stack up to ten high (!!!) all of their strength is for downward pressure. And it’s a pretty soft plastic, so I wasn’t wild about the idea of putting screws or bolts in them to hold the slides. The slides are 50lb capacity (I have very heavy elbows) and I didn’t think that plastic would hold up over time.


So I used 1/2″ sanded plywood panels that I primed and painted black and bolted to them by just drilling straight through and using fender washers to spread out the pressure on the wood and the plastic inside the drawer boxes. I used 1/4″ hardware. Pretzel piece for scale.


The shape of the drawers themselves allowed for plenty of clearance between the drawer and the box for the washer and nut. In the picture below you can see the panel already attached, and the line of dust inside the drawer shows the space between the drawer and the box itself, allowing plenty of room for the nut.  (The dust is so you can see how dusty it is here in oil field land.)


He attached a wood piece to the side of the filing cabinets

I only painted the visible parts of the side panels. Reflective vest for safety. 

And bolted them in

Bolted left panel

Then he taped the piece of counter top

I used gaff tape on the surface of the counter top because I read somewhere that it helps keep the laminate from chipping and/or cracking when you cut it. It worked, except for the rounded front, where a little piece chipped off, but I can glue it on.

And cut it to the size we needed. Just big enough to fit the keyboard and mouse with pad

Notice I am wearing safety glasses. Always safety first.

He attached these medium duty sliders

These are the medium duty slides. You can see a little sloppy primer paint on the work surface, but Tracy can easily peel that off.

And then slid it in

With both side panels on, and the slides attached, the desktop extension slid right in. The slides are soft close, which is nice, because all you have to do is give it a push, and they suck the extension back in and hold it in place so it doesn’t slide out while traveling.

He was so happy it worked!!!

So happy it worked!!! And the chair arms slide just under the extension perfectly.

So here's the before

So here’s the before, with the awkward angles.

And the after

And the after

The monitor slides on this bar in the back and can be adjusted

The monitor mount is an Ergotronand allow the monitor to be placed anywhere I want, including pan, tilt, and rotation.

And the final result, a strong, large, functional desktop extension that either of us can sit at for hours without back, neck, or shoulder pain. Look how happy I am. 


Here’s what it cost:

4′ section of counter top          $ 42.00
Drawer slides                             $ 16.98
2′ x 4′ sanded plywood             $ 15.95
Quart primer                             $   7.64
Quart black paint                      $ 12.97
2 paint brushes                         $   6.96
Nuts, washers, bolts                $   5.12

Total cost                                 $ 107.62

Here’s what I used:

Measuring tape
Circular saw
Speed square
Yardstick (as a straight edge)
Phillips screwdriver
Cordless drill with 1/4″ bit
7/16″ ratchet wrench
Torpedo level
Gaff tape (duct tape is for amateurs)


This project took several hours, and when he was outside working I edited a short video.  Lee taught me how to edit many years ago on a program called Pinnacle, but now he is using Adobe Premier Pro so I need to learn the new interface.  Editing is quite a bit like playing music and I am good enough to play Mary Had A Little Lamb, but not much more than that.  Still, it was enough that I was able to take an 11 minute video down to 5 minutes and from there Lee took it down to 3.  I wanted it because I thought I should show you a little bit about what my life was like before.  I have no intention of sharing those videos, mostly because other people’s home movies are pretty boring, but this particular video, which is of me cooking dinner really spoke to me in several ways.  Before I get into all that though, take a look, if you are so inclined.  If nothing else you’ll get to see the “old” me.  This is from October of 1999 so it’s really going back.


So why this video? Well, first I think it’s interesting that I am doing something as mundane as cooking dinner, and cooking a meal that years later had made it to my recipe book.  Sirloin tips and noodles is my own creation and was always one of the kids favorites.  (I am not a fan. I think it’s icky, and she used to make me eat it all the time. I shot the video to use as evidence in her commitment hearing. – Lee)  My middle daughter Kate, who was setting the table in the video, loves it to this day, and feeds it to her husband all the time. (Proof that she doesn’t really love him, and only married him because he’s funny. Because as she herself says, “All the handsome and smart ones were already taken.”  Which is a perfectly acceptable reason to marry someone. – Lee)   That’s a bit surreal.  Also, I love how I say in the video “I’ll be fascinated by this when I am watching it when I am old and grey.”  I think I was being sarcastic at the time, but it turns out I am fascinated. (In accordance with prophecy. – Lee) 

I’ve talked quite a bit about how I have loved rediscovering my joy of cooking, and this video shows me at least how I lost it.  Cooking for a family is nice, and obviously they were appreciative, but doing something a million times and with all that going on, it wasn’t really always fun.  No time to get creative, just get the food out and as efficiently as possible.  (And in large quantities. All of our girls ate like football players. – Lee) And to broaden that point a little I can’t help but think how different my life is now.  It’s not just the physical, although eye surgery and a short haircut were no small thing.  It’s not just the place, although I had forgotten how much I loved that house, we left it when we moved to New Hampshire.  It’s how different my life is, but how similar I am in many ways. I didn’t realize how much of my personality had formed at 35.

I do realize some of this we would have gone through normally without becoming a full-time RVers.  Empty nest changes things for sure and having three kids in three different states would have made for lots of two people meals.  We definitely would have eaten out more and “family dinners” would have largely been a thing of the past.  Boy, I am having a hard time explaining this. The major difference is the lack of obligation.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved my kids and feeding them was part of the job, but there wasn’t always joy in it.  Now I make a meal and it’s fun and there is usually joy, even when things don’t turn out that great.  I’ve talked about this before, but it’s definitely worth saying again, my life didn’t always have much joy.  I was satisfied, I was even happy, but pure joy…well there wasn’t a lot of time for that.

I was doing a whole lot of “checking off the boxes” in my life. Make the dinner, clean the house, go to work, raise the kids.  They were all part of my job, a job I knowingly signed up for, but a job nonetheless. Mostly I felt good about the job I was doing.  I thought things were going well, and they were.  But that woman in that video could no more have imagined this life than taking a trip to the moon.  Actually that’s not true.  Since I was an avid science fiction reader I could have pictured going to the moon!

So how does it make me feel? Incredibly blessed.  I am grateful for that life, and extremely grateful for the beautiful children I have, but this lifestyle (despite its challenges) is such a gift.  I wouldn’t go back, by the way and tell that woman what was going to happen.  Some things just need to play themselves out, and I think every moment of that life, made this one possible for me.  Even making a dinner of sirloin tips and noodles.

Oh, and by the way, the cow plate was this special plate we had that didn’t match any of our other dishes.  Whoever did something nice that day, or had something special happen to them that day, got to use the cow plate for dinner  My decision making process was a little arbitrary, to be sure, but I think it’s interesting I never gave the cow plate to myself except maybe on my birthday.  My whole life is the cow plate now 🙂

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16 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Day 33

  1. Tracy, wonderful blog, thanks. These two sentences brought a huge smile to my face: “I wouldn’t go back, by the way and tell that woman what was going to happen. Some things just need to play themselves out, and I think every moment of that life, made this one possible for me”. Yes, I completely concur that the sirloin-tips-and-noodles phase of our lives is essential to our deepening gratitude for the life we have been given. It is all good!

  2. It’s funny how we (wives and mothers) belong to this special sorority that will seldom think to put ourselves first and will almost always put others before ourselves, i.e. the cow plate is a perfect example! Tracy, another great post. And, Lee, good job on the desk, too.

  3. We are right at the end of our ‘Tips and Noodles’ phase but with a twist, I’m the one doing the cooking (the guy). Otherwise it’s exactly the same and we’re working towards where you are now! Thanks for the glimpse into hopefully our future!

    Nice job Lee! I hope you didn’t waste that pretzel.

  4. Great post as usual. I loved, loved, loved watching the video of you. It really gave me another dimension (besides the written word) of your personality. It was amazing. Thank you for sharing!

  5. so you know I love following your blog…a little behind here in Quartzsite because, (as I’m sure you know) internet sucks here…but I have to tell you this one just made me tear up. I don’t really have the words to tell you why…but that video just nailed something for me. I love that you do this. Please know there is value to your words. (and Lee’s videos) xoxo ~ Mikki

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