First Time Gate Guarding – Days 63 -64

Day 63

The ranch owner stopped by last night to check the rain meter and told us we had 7/10ths of an inch the day before.  This, coupled with, another 7/10ths of an inch on Thursday is pretty unusual.  This area of Texas has gotten more rain than usual in the last 4 years, but it still an arid region and they don’t take the rain for granted.  The owner also keeps asking about the activity level back at the rig.  All we can tell him is a rough number of vehicles that are on site and the hours they are working.  He seems to be losing patience a little though because he said it was “time to see the black stuff flowing.”  I get where he is coming from of course, but from our perspective every day’s delay is another day of pay. 

Plus with absolutely zero no traffic at night, I am getting quite a bit of writing done.  Once I got started the first draft has been coming pretty easily.  I just finished writing about our first rally, and since I was keeping this a secret back then had to take a combination of blog posts, forum posts, and memory to really put together the complete story, but it is coming along very well.   It’s amazing to me how much happened between June 2013 and November 2014, and now that I am getting into this I am glad I started the project before too much time passed.  My friend Ellen has been trying to get me to start writing this story for a couple of years now, but I just never felt I was ready.  She was absolutely right though, because it feels like the right amount of time has passed for me to have some perspective, but not completely forget how I felt back then.  Even if I have to put what I have written on the shelf for a while  when we start traveling again, I will have this much of the story written, which is a really good thing.  So thanks Ellen, you were right!

I was pretty much in the zone so I didn’t actually notice when the time jumped forward an hour.  I was a little tired anyway so when Lee got up a few minutes to 4am I didn’t think anything of it.  When he asked about the time, that’s when I realized there was a Daylight Savings switch.  Lee took one for the team on losing an hour of sleep, but I got my full 8 hours, which was nice.  I actually slept really well because the temperatures have cooled down and it is a pleasant 64 degrees. Since gate traffic was minimal, Lee and I decided to watch a movie and I chose Deepwater Horizon.  Whenever we can, we like to watch a movie about the area we are visiting. Since we are gate guarding in an oil field this movie seemed particularly appropriate. And it was a very good movie on its own merit.  I really liked the way they portrayed people as just regular folks and they did a great job of explaining what went wrong.  

One thing I will mention, and no spoiler here as you see this in the first 10 minutes, is how even on an oil rig each little group only knew what was happening in their particular area.  It takes the Installation Manager multiple conversations to find out if a simple test was done and that whole scene really struck a cord with me.  Apparently segmentation of role and lack of information is systemic in the oil field industry, because I just saw the exact same lack of communication we have been experiencing in that film.  And yes I know I keep harping on this, but that was an extreme example of what can happen if everyone doesn’t know the safety procedures.  

Our job here is to guard the gate, but we have heard that in case of emergency we will be responsible for assisting police/fire crews.  That makes sense, especially as we are located at the point of entry to the site, but I think it’s important that if something like that happened, I would have absolutely no idea what my role was.  Certainly I can use my own common sense and rely on my past experience as a security guard, but shouldn’t I have some documented instructions with procedures and emergency contact numbers?  That seems pretty basic to me.  And to be clear, I am in no way holding my gate guarding company accountable for this.  The company man is clearly in charge of the installation so I would expect it to come from them.  Clearly not a big deal to them and the chances are extremely rare it would ever happen.  But, and there is a spoiler here, I just saw a movie about a rig on fire and the two low-level people who were in the command center were in complete disagreement about what to do because “they didn’t have authority.” That should never, ever happen in a life safety situation.  On the positive side though, there was a great scene in the movie where two people have to start an emergency generator and ended up reading laminated instructions hanging from a hook on the generator.  As a person who used to write those type of instructions and make sure they were hanging where they should be, it was pretty cool to see them used in an emergency situation helping to save lives. 

Obviously I am pretty passionate about process improvement.  I miss my old job sometimes. 

Day 64

Here are last week’s numbers.  We saw a bit of an increase in traffic midweek when they brought in the workover rig, but it was definitely manageable, especially since the company man told us we could leave the gate open on the two heavier days.

When the traffic is like this it is hard to argue with the value proposition of the job especially if you derive your hourly wage from hours actually worked.  Still, I have to be awake and somewhat alert during the evening hours, just in case, which is kind of a bummer because we only had one truck all week past 8:00pm and that was a wrong gate situation.  Either way, Lee and I are ready to move on.  It’s been 60 days, which is a very long time for us to stay in one place and go nowhere else (trips to the grocery store aside) and the weather, which has been rainy or overcast, is not helping.  The weather has always been a key factor for us, especially Lee, and Texas weather is extremely variable.  We’ve been pretty lucky so far with some absolutely gorgeous days, but even so we have seen swings from 30 degrees to 99 degrees.  We’ve seen wind, lightning, dust storms, and heavy rain.  What we have not seen, and consider ourselves lucky, is hail, tornadoes, insect swarms, or flooding.  All of these weather conditions absolutely occur in this area, and when we see accounts of golf ball sized hail and extreme wind from other gate guards we know we have it good.

Overall, it’s been pretty good.  I would definitely do it again, because we have to be somewhere in the winter, and at least here we are earning some money.  The amount of downtime in the job coupled with the fact that we have been treated very well goes a long way for us.  Still haven’t experienced fracking so I can’t say for sure, but overall it seems fine for a coupe of months in the winter.  My personal goal, however, is to explore some other ways of making money next year.  This is a good option to have, but I would really like to see what else is out there for us as mobile workers.

While I have been researching (and writing) the early days of our full timing story, I have been getting acquainted with my original plan for the lifestyle.  I was completely convinced that I was going to have to quit my job to make this work and put together everything I would need to start consulting.  It was actually one of the major benefits of the lifestyle for me.  I was friends with some consultants and thought I would really like it, but with the mortgage and kids at home was never confident enough to take the risk financially.  With lower bills, less debt, and mobility I thought it would be a great fit.  It came as a big surprise to me when my company allowed me to keep my job while living on the road, and since we sold our house for essentially what we paid for it, I needed to keep the job until the truck was paid off.  A year later when the buyout opportunity came, I just needed a break.  We had Year 1 under our belt, really wanted to go to Alaska, and I was tired.  Plus Lee really wanted to try the lifestyle just doing work kamping and I felt I owed that to him.  He had been very understanding about my work requirements for Year 1 and I thought it was time to try it on his terms.

So we work kamped in Alaska, did the beet harvest, then Christmas Trees and now gate guarding.  Next we have scheduled camp hosting in Oregon and had signed up for Amazon.  At the end of this year we will have 18 months of what I consider the work kamping lifestyle under our belt and certainly enough information to see what that looks like.  It is good to have options, but neither one of these paths (full-time mobile job versus series of work kamping jobs) has given us what we originally envisioned when we started this.  Our goal was always to “work a little/play a little” but in most scenarios it has definitely been more work than play.

Don’t get me wrong, we still feel we get to see more cool things and have more great experiences than we ever had in our traditional life, but we have not been able to find the type of balance we have been looking for.  Perfect world view is change of scenery every couple of months, fulfilling work, and time to explore.  And it may turn out that balance is extremely difficult to find.  But, it is definitely a life that is worth searching for and as Lee says “dissatisfaction is the key to excellence”.  Overall, I am really happy about the path we have taken.  Having my  old job through the Year 1 transition gave me a much-needed foundation and ultimately led to a healthy financial package that allowed us to pay off our truck.  Trying the work kamping jobs has shown us the reality of a life financed by low-level positions and has forced us to get a handle on our spending. I am sure whatever happens in 2018 we will learn something from that as well.

The biggest mistake I made coming into this lifestyle was the idea that if we followed conventional wisdom everything would work out.  The problem with a “no one way” lifestyle  is that conventional wisdom is not that helpful.  Couple that with the fact that as working RVers without investment/pension revenue we are in the minority , and you really have to be careful about comparing your travels to those of other people.   It’s interesting actually that in this lifestyle it’s the cool experiences that matter.  No cares what you do for a living, and they rarely care much about “your rig is nicer than mine” because ultimately we all know we are living in boxes on wheels, but the experiences…well that matters.  It’s hard to sit here at a dusty gate and look at pictures of your friends sipping cocktails on the beach, and I am sure it was hard for many of them to see our beautiful pictures of Alaska.  You always want to be out there, experiencing the cool stuff, but however you are paying for it, those experiences cost something. It’s much cheaper to “hole up” as we are now in one small section of the country and just hang out. 

That can be great of course.  You can see friends, explore an area, work on hobbies or just rest awhile.  But sooner or later, I think most of us get the “hitch itch” and really want to move on. There is a reason after all we chose to forgo our sticks and bricks homes and getting out and seeing things is near the top of almost everyone’s list.  This lifestyle is also real life and we all have obligations that need to be incorporated into our travels. For us, we need to find a way to balance our travels with earning a living, and we are still working on that.  The good news is, we have plenty of time.  Neither one of us is anywhere close to being ready to settle down, and since we are relatively young and in good health we can keep going.  And we have choices.  Lots and lots of glorious choices, because we have followed a very deliberate path and held on to the money we started with.  I feel really good about that, and am really excited to see what happens next.

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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes

12 thoughts on “First Time Gate Guarding – Days 63 -64

  1. I think balance is hard to find no matter your accommodations. But it sounds to me you are happy. How would you compare your “happiness” meter now with your “happiness” meter 5 years ago? Be glad you are not “back home” today, we are expecting about 18″ of snow – yuck!

    • Yikes on the snow. That’s a great question, I have been writing about the few months before we left Keene and my happiness meter is so much higher now than it was then. It is absolutely I important to remember that

  2. Thanks for the “shout out” in your post💕❤ So glad the book is taking form…. your depth of introspection coupled with your pragmatic process improvement mindset is a rare gift that I’m confident will translate into a final product that will add real value to the RV community👍

  3. You seem to have a passion for writing and so good for you for taking it on. One thought on budget, I would urge you to consider becoming Elks members. As you travel, especially in really spendy areas, Elks Lodge camping can be a budget-saver. If I recall, you will be in the Portland area? Consider joining the Sherwood Elks Lodge. We stay there every time we’re in the area. For water & electric and a gorgeous view of Mt. Hood, we paid $12 for the first two nights and $10 thereafter. It’s bound to go up eventually, but it’s a steal of a deal either way!

  4. Great post, Tracy! I could relate to so many things you wrote about. Having camp hosted in OR, AK and now GA, each have been totally different. We really like volunteering, but staying out of the politics weather it be the other hosts or the rangers is just like our past lives. And it’s a bummer in this life too! 😀 We pinch ourselves every day and are absolutely sure this is the life for us. Now to sustain it…!

  5. Wow, the last two paragraphs of this entry really hit the spot. I’ve never read anyone explaining what it is to be ‘out there’ quite like that. I really can’t wait to read your book. Of course I will want a signed copy. Even better if I can get it signed in person!

  6. “I am sure it was hard for many of them to see our beautiful pictures of Alaska.” Yes! Along with Bill & Kelly’s and Les and Sue’s 🙂 And, we take a special interest in watching our fellow “Dreamers Class of 2014” Grads. Many write a blog so we can keep up with all their adventures. We use Rvillage to see where everyone is and the possibility that we can meet up if we’re within a couple of hours of each other. Hope to see you and Lee in Oregon.

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