Just the Way Things Are

If you remember, a few days ago we got a call from the gate guarding company asking us to leave the yard and head to a gate. So we immediately sprung into action and were out of there in under an hour, driving across Texas and taking over the gate that same day. That’s who we are, and how we work with people, so it keeps surprising us when that level of commitment isn’t reciprocated.  Admittedly, our experience with gate guarding is pretty small.  We worked for a small company last year that was obviously in transition, so we chalked up a lot of their disorganization to the fact that the company was in crisis.  Fast forward to this year, and we intentionally decided to work for one of the more established companies, in the hopes that we wouldn’t run into any issues.

Big shock, the experience has been almost identical.  You get a call to go to a gate with little to no warning, and when you arrive, it’s between you and the people you are relieving to do the switch.  They are in a hurry to get out of there, so you get some paperwork dumped in your lap (literally), a cursory explanation of the rules of that particular property, and then that couple is down the road.  That’s OK, you think, because the company you work for will have the information you need, except they rarely know what is going on in detail.  You are assigned a “local” technical person to make sure you have fuel for the generator, and water, but you won’t necessarily see that person for several days until after you arrive.  The scheduler tries to be helpful but they don’t really know, so all of a sudden you are the hot potato in a game between the oil company men and the gate guarding compan,y and you are also no one’s top priority.

I get it, I really do, but the thing that really drives me crazy is the broken commitments.  If you can’t help me, just tell me that, don’t say you will do something or call me back and then blow me off.  It’s unprofessional and it happens all of the time!!  Plus it’s not like we are that demanding.  The only thing we need from these folks is generator fuel, water, sewage dump, trash removal, and working floodlights.  And all of that is just so we can actually do what they sent us here to do. Oh, and of course, to get paid.  In all fairness they seem to have figured the last one out, but at times the other items seem a bit optional.  Then we have to end up escalating or talking to other people, and the whole thing just gets rather messy.  We are here and doing our jobs from the minute we set foot on the property.  All we ask is that they do theirs.  Pretty simple really. (This stuff makes me crazy, too, but I prefer gate guarding to most of the stuff we’ve done, so I try not to let it make me too crazy. – Lee)

I know all this sounds pretty harsh, but neither one of us has any patience for it.  Well, I say that, but of course we must have the patience for it or we wouldn’t be doing this.  And again, in all fairness once you have settled into a gate and know all the players things run much more smoothly.  Let me give you an example.  When we arrived here the previous couple stated that they were almost out of fuel in the floodlight generator (which here is a separate generator from the one that provides our rig with power) and they gave me the name and number of the guy who was supposed to deliver it on New Year’s Day.  I thought that was unlikely to happen, and it didn’t, but on Tuesday when we still had not heard from him I gave him a call.  He apologized and said he would call the fuel company and see if they would get someone out right away, and that was around 5pm. Again, I thought that was highly unlikely, so wasn’t surprised no one showed.  The next day Lee called and left him a message first thing in the morning, but we didn’t hear back from him the entire day.  We also called our local company contact, but he went into a rant about how it wasn’t his responsibility, and how that company owed 20 gallons of fuel because he had filled it last time, and the company we work for doesn’t provide the lights.  Alright then..that was different from our experience last year.  Our light stand was part of our “house setup” and they provided fuel and maintenance.  This company only provides two dinky light stands that you plug into your RV. Of the four lights on those two stands, 3 have bulbs, and 2 of them have broken switches. They’re the really lightweight kind you would use in your house, and they fall over in any kind of wind.

Finally, I decided to call the name on the equipment itself, since it was also on the paper I was provided with contact information.  Coincidentally that company is heavily involved in the frack  and the guy I called had just left the site about 15 minutes earlier.  I explained the situation and my concern about coyotes, and he promised to send someone out.  Well this time that actually happened, and the gentleman they sent seemed annoyed by the whole thing.  I went out and thanked him though, and got him to talk a little, and he shared that the company who owned the drilling rig had been filling it. Now that the drilling rig was gone, he supposed he would have to do it since they were in charge of frack.  “That makes sense,” I said, thinking it’s a good thing I kept dialing numbers, and I must have made a good impression because on his way out he handed me a card for when it ran low.  Problem is solved, but the Gate Guard company was absolutely zero help, which was really the point of this story.  Since they own the contract with the oil field companies and we are merely subcontractors, we are walking a pretty thin line here.  But as I said in the title, that’s just the way things are.

Knowing this, we are settling in.  Each gate is a little different, and this one has the sand pit pretty close to the gate.  From dawn to dusk trucks are removing caliche that is being used to build roads elsewhere.  This results in a truck every 5 minutes or so, and since it’s the same traffic going back and forth to a nearby construction site, Lee put together a plan to handle it.  At the beginning of the day he gets names, truck numbers etc, and then from that point on we just log them from inside the rig with the truck number as they come through without stopping them, or going outside.  Our front living room model RV is the perfect solution for this as we can sit at the computer and easily see the truck numbers.  We still get up for all cars and pickup trucks (along with any other frack related semis), but this reduces the workload considerably.  And we are both really thankful that we don’t have to physically open and shut the gate. Now you may be wondering who gave us permission to do it this way?  Well, that is one of the benefits of the disorganization.  We can set up what works best for us and if someone has an issue, they can tell us how they want it done instead. Since no one seems to be in charge we wouldn’t know who to ask anyway.

What else?  Well, we wanted to make sure we got paid, so we printed out our contracts and scanned and emailed them.  As a side note we do carry a printer and a wand feed scanner and although we hate the space they take up, we have needed them on quite a few occasions, and often without much notice. For instance, the closest place to us where we could get something printed out is an hour away. Generally that need corresponds with us being nowhere near a place that could handle printing and scanning for us, so it’s just easier to be self-sufficient in this area.  If you are thinking about going on the road and plan on working or volunteering I highly recommend bringing these items with you.  On a completely different note, the weather has improved, and we are able to leave the water hooked up all night.  It was 12° the first four days, and now it’s in the 60’s during the day. It is super dusty , with all the traffic, and our rig is already covered in dust. We learned our lesson last time and are keeping our windows shut!  It’s a bummer not being able to air things out, but this dust does get everywhere and in the greater scheme of things it’s better.  We still get dust though from opening and shutting the door, and of course we track it in on our clothes.  I only mention this because if you hate dust and dirt this is definitely not the job for you, because it is 100% unavoidable.

On Thursday night around 9pm our gate guard company service provider showed up.  We had asked him to call before he came, and he did, giving us all of 10 minutes notice.  Thankfully Lee was still awake, and worked with him to set up our black tank and get some information on the other equipment.  He also told us that the water was purchased from a water company and I was glad to hear it.  Gate Guard companies do not guarantee potable water, which is a big deal for me since I drink so much of it.  Since the water is coming to us fresh, all I need to worry about is the tanks and for the time being we are double filtering the water and drinking it.  We have a filter at the hose and I also use a Brita, and I hope that works out OK.  Some gate guards buy bottled water, but that is expensive and a pain in the tush, so I much prefer to use what they provide if possible.  The only disturbing part of the meeting was when we asked when we would get more water.  The folks before us left us with about 125 gallons in a 500 gallon tank, but our service rep said we would be fine for 10 days.  When Lee tried to express his concern, the guy kind of blew him off.

That just wasn’t OK with us and after he left we talked about what we would do.  The way I see it we are professional and low drama, but we expect the basics of timely fuel and water delivery.  Since this is a new company and their contract didn’t spell out how much fuel and water they will provide (some are very specific about that), I decided to call our coordinator.  I started the call very nice, and just looking for specifics on their water policy, but she immediately validated my concern.  She agreed water and fuel were the bare minimum, and stated we could always call her if we ran out of water.  That was good to hear because as I expressed to her we do use water.  Some folks treat this job as if they were boondocking, but in our minds the water and fuel are part of the compensation.  At this point we are still waiting to see when they come out.  For the time being we have enough and they have plenty of time to address it.

All that being said it’s been a really nice week.  We’ve settled into a routine, and both of us are working on tasks that never seem to get done when we are traveling.  Plus we have strong cellular and all four TV networks, which is awesome because I have the time and means to watch some football, right as the playoffs are starting.  Lee and I also had our annual budget meeting where we look at the year and adjust our targets for the next year.  Those are always pretty tense, but we worked through it, and I’ll be providing more details in the January report.  Mainly we are just happy to be sitting still for awhile.  As much as I like traveling and seeing new places, it’s also nice to just sit once in a while and both of us are enjoying it.  As proof here are some pictures of what Lee gets into when he has time on his hands!  No worries, everything was put back together before he went to bed and is working just fine.



Look at that happy face


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15 thoughts on “Just the Way Things Are

  1. If your scanner stops working try some of the phone scanner apps. I currently use Scanbot and e-mail the PDF to myself to file on my computer. The quality is very good and the app is easy to use. I recently downloaded Scannable but you have to create an account with Evernote. I have never used Evernote and need to research that app before creating an account.

  2. Hi Tracey and lee! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now, and I have been wanting to ask you a question. I know you have a fifth wheel, and I was wondering if you have the one that has the living space in the front? We have looked at 5th wheels and never cared for them because the bedrooms in the front always seemed so cramped. Is yours the bedroom or living room? If it is the living room, is it pretty spacious? What I mean by spacious is, does the ceiling really make it feel closed in like it does with the bedroom? Do you feel like it is plenty of room to move around? We’re wanting to upgrade soon, and whatever we get we need to be comfortable for us to live in. Thanks, Kathy

    • Hi! We do have the front living room model and we love it. I have some mild claustrophobia and the bedrooms in the front made my skin feel itchy 🙂 Our bedroom is in the back and has a window all along the end of the RV which really opens the room up. WE absolutely feel like we have plenty of room to move around and we like how we have three distinct rooms. One of our must haves was a door between the bedroom and living room and although we don’t use that during the day often, if we are really getting on each others nerves we can go to our separate corners lol. Big Big fan of this layout

  3. I didn’t read the whole post, I stopped when patch talk ended.

    Oil work is a completely different game. It is structured, but very unstructured. And it works, even when oil is low, and high. You either adapt to the patch, or you leave. On the rig side, the money is stellar!

    Gate guarding is at the bottom of the patch. With your corp history, you’re barkin up the wrong tree’s.

    Every day you’re making money. It looks like Lee is adapting. If you don’t like it, walk away.

    Look at the advantage / dis-advantage aspect. You could find another gig, and burn more fuel. I’m sure some friends will take you out for meals, due to your budget constraints.

    I’m sorry, but this is the life you chose to live in. Every job for you is different, it is only a job. You had your careers. Stop trying to be a chief, your barely Indians!

    • Ken:

      I am not Tracy or Lee. But I wanted to respond to your comment. Please take it in the respectful manner that is given. I believe that your attitude was a little harsh. If you have read through their posts since they started the blog, I think you will understand that one of the objectives that Tracy and Lee have in writing the blog, is to provide a level of detail and transparency regarding the actual details of earning a living while traveling full time in your RV. This is their blog, and thus reflects their viewpoint and experience. As someone who formerly worked in a corporate environment, I can relate to the frustration that they experience, when a new job is not well organized. In my experience, there are not many resources available (like Camper Chronicles) that would provide one with the type of real day-to-day experience of various full time RV working opportunities. Tracy and Lee’s frank posts provide needed detail that might help some folks from making decisions that may not meet their needs.

      • Well said Ed! I don’t know Tracy or Lee, but I enjoy reading their blog. I could go on about the value that the frankness provides me in my “dreamer” stage, but it seems when I do I’m just repeating almost exactly what you said. So thanks for putting in to words what I was thinking.

      • Thanks Kim. I am really glad you accept the blog in the spirit it is intended. I never want to discourage someone who is in the dreamer stage, but when I was thinking about doing this the candid, honest blog posts had the most impact on me. Anything else felt disingenuous and I just didn’t trust it.

      • Thanks Ed..I appreciate that. I did answer him finally..been a little busy the last few days..and I also thought some of his comments were pretty snarky! My blog is absolutely not for everyone. For some reason there are a small group of folks who just want me to settle down and shut up about what I don’t like. I am not sure why those folks read this blog since there are tons of blogs out there that never discuss these issues, and I imagine eventually they wander off, but they can’t seem to help but tell me what I should do. I’ll be honest here it does sting a little, but I am really lucky because almost all of our readers are incredibly supportive. And look I get it. Sometimes I annoy myself. But here’s the thing. If I was a person who was willing to accept the status quo I never would have become a full time RVer. I had a pretty good gig when we chose this life, but we both wanted to make it better. So I get to decide whether it’s worth it or not. And I get to stop whenever I want. So far it has been more than worth it, but this life is not without it’s challenges. Instead of glossing over the painful moments I choose to share them and sometimes that’s not pretty. Thanks again for your kind words.

    • Hey Ken,

      I wish you would have kept reading. We like gate guarding. It’s actually going to be our go to winter money maker. That being said we do have some minimum requirements. I want water and I want fuel. I also want to get paid. I totally get that we are the lowest guy on the totem pole and actually that is part of why we like it. This is the most stress free job I have ever had. But I was a project manager for a really long time, and I think it’s important that every single person who contributes to a project has some idea what is going on. That may never happen…I’ll refer you to the title of my post..but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope for it. As far as this comment “You had your careers. Stop trying to be a chief, your barely Indians!” that’s really up to us isn’t it. I recently listened to a webinar that talked about having a purpose in your work life. It really resonated with me since I often feel that has been what is lacking in the jobs we have worked. I’ve done low level jobs before and had purpose. I pumped gas as a kid and found purpose. Worked as a waitress, in an alarm center, as a secretary…plenty of low level jobs and always I felt as if I was contributing to something larger than myself. I don’t think there is anything wrong with striving for that and still living this lifestyle.

    • Ken….who are you and why are you even here? This is the second time that I know of you have been unpleasant. The second time where you’re trying to be chief accusing them of doing the same. Do you have a blog? I would love to critique your posts. I’m sure there is an unsubscribe button you can click on.

      Personally Ken, although I’m sure you’ve already stopped reading by now….so I guess I’ll speak to Tracy and Lee, I like to know the good AND the not so good. If I ever get to enjoy the full-time lifestyle, I’ll know what questions to ask or what to watch for when gate guarding. I’ve started a list of questions to ask and what to watch for when I apply to the different jobs. Thank you for your blog!

      • Thanks Elliemay and it’s ok although I appreciate the support. It’s kind of silly to have an argument in this format because I do hold the ultimate power of deleting the comments. I rarely do that, because I don’t mind constructive criticism but yeah I agree I wonder why he is even reading this blog. The gate guarding community is an interesting one and pretty protective of what they do. I respect that, but don’t think that should extend to hazing people or threatening their livelihood if they speak out. I am absolutely not interested in that!

  4. Budget updating…. tense meeting? Hmmmm OK I can relate to that… lol This year the meeting was less tense…lol..

  5. Lee and Tracy, Hi, I’ve been a secret admirer of both of you for over a year now, ever since the Beat Harvest, and we’re in the planning stages of full time travel coming up this May ! What I enjoy reading your blog for, is you do tell it like it is! And I’d have it no other way!! And I thank you both for this! My hubby and I are a little older, and will need to add to our pensions, and reading your experiences show us what we may want to do or not, based on your experiences! Please don’t let the key board mice get to you, lol, they only say things because their unhappy and sitting behind their key boards and not living the life! I just had to add my 2 cents because I’m always looking forward to your next post, and when I read comments like that, it makes me wonder too, why do they continue to follow along ! I love your style of writing too, very descriptive, I can practically visualize what your doing, even without the picture’s! Thank you, and hopefully one day I’ll get to meet you RV rock stars on the road! Keep up the awesome Blogs !!

    • That’s so sweet Jamie and I am really glad you reached out! I am really glad that my descriptions have helped you decide what jobs to try. That is one of the nicest things you could have said to me. If you ever find yourself near us, please do reach out. Would love to meet and thanks again for kind words. And I love keyboard mice lol…that’s an awesome way to put it.

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