First Time on Padre Island

We had been told so many times over the course of nearly a month that it would just be a “couple more days” before we were done that when the call finally came we were pretty unprepared.   You would think being in the same place for such a long time we would have gotten all of our errands run, but there were a few things that we had do decide whether or not to do on the fly.  We also weren’t really sure where we were going to go.  Those plans had changed as well, and we found ourselves in a rare situation of having a few days with nowhere to be, so we decided to head down and check out the Padre Island National Seashore.  I had read about their campgrounds in someone’s blog, (sorry, for the life of me I can’t remember who!), but the description must have been a good one because the place stuck in my head.  And since our furnace was fixed, our solar was working, and we had time, we decided to head down and just see what happened.

Padre Island National Seashore has two smallish campgrounds and both are first come, first served.  If both were full our backup plan was to stay at one of the local campgrounds, and when we were about halfway to Corpus Christi several people on Facebook let me know we might have some trouble getting in because it was spring break.  I rarely pay attention to school holidays anymore, but since we were halfway there we decided to just wing it and see what happened.  This wasn’t something we would have ever done when we first started out, but the last year or so we have been much more comfortable with playing our travels by ear.  Not that we often get the chance, because we are usually on a schedule, but we were both very comfortable with whatever we found and our backup, backup plan was to continue on towards Silsbee, which was where we needed to go after Padre Island, but before we left for the reunion rally.

We were pleased to find out when we arrived that although the campground on the Gulf side, Malaquite, was full, the campground on the Laguna side, Bird Island Basin had lots of spots.  When we pulled in we were very happy that we were able to grab #34 on the end, and squeezed ourselves in.

Our picnic table was actually on the grass side of the rig. If we had a Class A and could pull in nose forward this would have been an almost perfect spot.


Right on the laguna which is a popular spot for kayakers and windsurfers.


As you can see there were lots of opening on a Monday, so even though the sites would be VERY tight when full, it was no issue for any of us.


They had windsurfing classes every day which was fun to watch.


Gives you a feel of the spacing. We are on the right.


This little pond was right across from us.


Once we settled in the camp host came up and introduced himself, and was a very friendly guy.  We decided that we would pay by the day ($5 cash, check or we could have put a credit card number on the slip for iron ranger) and since it was still a little early we went over to check out the other campground.  That campground, like this one, is basically a parking lot strip, but they are right across from the beach and have a nice walkway down to the shore along with cold showers and flush toilets.  Our campground just had pit toilets, but they were clean.

Malaquite.  Big rigs would fit in some of the spots on the right, against sand dunes, but only a couple on the left.


Beautiful green dunes along the road in between the campgrounds.

Malaquite was much busier than Island Basin, but you did have the nice ocean noise.  They were indeed full, but we decided to check the next day at noon and headed back for a nice dinner and a peaceful evening.

On Tuesday we both slept in way past 8:30am as we adjusted to both the time change and our new sleep schedules.  It was great having so much quiet with no truck noises, generator smells, and no need to get up and down whenever a truck came in!  We took our time, but drove over to the visitors center around 10:30am and swung through Malaquite to see if there were any openings.  There were a couple on the dune side, but after enjoying our peaceful morning we decided we liked where we were. It’s funny because our spot was really special but the allure of being ocean side made it tempting to give it up even for a lesser spot.  What ultimately convinced me was that there were lots of young kids on the ocean side, and it was all adults where we were.  Afterwards, we went up and checked out the visitors center to talk to them about driving on the beach.  I had read you could drive and camp on the beach but since we don’t have 4-wheel drive we wanted to get some info from a ranger before we tried it.

It was  a small visitors center but had some nice information about sea turtles which use the island to lay eggs starting in April.  They have a very robust volunteer program and nice access to the beach, and even with the overcast weather it was pretty busy.  We talked to a very nice ranger who said it was generally safe to drive the first 5 miles without 4 wheel drive, but definitely cautioned us about going too far in.  We left the visitors center and drove down to the end of the pavement and then got out to walk it a bit and see what we thought.

Visitors Center


View from their deck. This beach was full on Wednesday.


Cool display of a life sized turtle laying eggs. They are huge.


And a neat mockup of what the nest look like.


This sign is right where the beach starts so we parked here.


Part of the beach is blocked from drivers but most of the 60 mile stretch is accessible and open to camping.


We were pretty amazed by what we saw.  There were lots of people camping along the narrow stretch of beach in all kinds of setups, everything from Class A’s and full sized fifth wheels to tents and cars. We walked along for a bit and when Lee saw that sand was so hard packed that even trucks driving on it didn’t churn it up we went back and got the truck.  It was perfectly smooth, and there was plenty of space (it was still pretty far from high tide) and we actually talked about possibly getting out our tent and coming down and camping one night.  Ultimately we decided that it was a little too windy and cold for that, but if it had been slightly warmer we definitely would have done that and would like to try it in the future.

The entrance to the long stretch of beach.


Tons of pelicans flying in groups. We saw hundreds of them.


We saw several Class A’s.


And even this fifth wheel.


But most of the campers were in tents, popups or truck campers tucked into little inlets in the dunes for additional wind protection.

Near the entrance there was a pretty steady stream of traffic, which did cause some issues for the folks with small kids.  Several of them built little barriers that the kids played behind, but constant vigilance was necessary.  As chilly as I thought it was I was surprised to see kids in the water, but many of them were, and even more playing on the beach itself.  The only downside were the huge Portuguese man-of-wars, but the kids seemed largely oblivious to them as well.

We saw several of these type of structure that people had built, possibly from sea trash??


This brave little boy was having a great time in the waves.


Yuck…this was much larger than Lee’s foot and yucky.  Hate these things!


Once we got past the initial crowds there were less people camping and lots more birds.  The island has over 350 species during migration and I had a wonderful time taking pictures of them.  The pelicans in particular were amazing, flying in low formation over us several times.  We happily spent a couple of hours exploring the beach and enjoying the day. Here’s a few of the 450 pictures I took. It’s been a long time since I had this much to look at, so bear with me as I share the best of my pics.  I was in bird heaven!

Laughing Gull with breeding plumage. These were the most common.


They have four kinds of tern’s on the island and I love these sandwich terns.


You can distinguish them by the yellow tip on the beak.


Love, love this picture and I took it!!  These little guys have a ton of personality.


This Least Sandpiper was getting meat from inside of a small shell.


I think the non-breeding Sanderling is prettier than the breeding one!


Greater Yellowlegs with what looked like a shrimp.



And of course the pelicans.



And this Great Blue Heron let us get pretty close.  This one is mine.


This one is Lee’s 🙂


And this amazing shot he got in flight.


We had a wonderful couple of hours and then capped off the night with a very nice sunset…another benefit of being on the Laguna side.

Ahhhh life is good





Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

What Else Has Been Going On?

Well we are still hanging out at our gate and enjoying the lower volume of traffic although things have picked up a little.  We really have no clue at this point how long this gate will be open, but had reminded them that our final day will be March 16th, just in case the gate is still open.   here, but are enjoying racking up the cash while we can.  As our gate guarding time ticks away I have been focusing on finishing up those tasks that aren’t as easy to do when we are traveling.  I’ve gathered all the tax documents and definitely will be knocking that out while we are here, although I am not really looking forward to it.  We have a great tax guy, Travel Tax, who specializes in taxes for traveling people, and although I really like the job he has done, the workbook we fill out for him is pretty extensive.  Plus I have to create a profit and loss statement for our business, which takes some time.  It’s just not something I am that crazy about doing, especially because I never have a good idea on how it will turn out until I get to the end. Finishing this was a huge load of my mind and one less thing to worry about.  This is the first year we are 100% financed by non-corporate money and I really have no idea how it will all turn out in the end.  But it’s out of my hands now and to some extent it is what it is.

I wasn’t really planning on writing a blog post until something interesting happened, but the last couple of days have been a little weird.  Especially because we sit here for days on end with the same old routine, and then something odd happens, which really stands out.  The first thing that happened yesterday was we received a visit from the Texas Environmental Agency.  Thankfully Lee was wearing his safety vest and we are up to date on our licensing because those are things they check.  We knew it was somewhat unusual that they came though and weren’t really sure what to do.  At this point we have no idea who is in charge of the project and no one has given us a card with contact information.  Don’t get me wrong, a variety of “company men” are in and out of here on a regular basis, but we don’t know which one, if any, is actually in charge so we just sent the truck back to the site.

They didn’t stay long, which I suppose is a good sign, and I did let a couple of the company men know.  The next day we got a visit from the environmental arm of the company who monitors the site and he asked Lee a series of questions.  The thing is, on this job at least, our job is simply to write down names and license plate numbers.  When asked more details such as what equipment they brought with them, we have no idea.  Lee handled it very well and even learned a little bit about what was going on, which is pretty interesting.  The next bit is anecdotal, so take it for what it is worth, but I thought it had the ring of truth to it.

Not everyone who lives in this area has land that can be drilled.  That surprised me because I guess I figured all land in the area has some oil under it and people were just waiting until the time was right to develop it.  Under those circumstances it’s not surprising that some of the land owners aren’t that happy.  And I get it, the guy down the road from you gets rich overnight, but through bad luck you don’t get to cash in.  And this is where it gets anecdotal, but people being people it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true.  Some people who aren’t as lucky look for other ways to cash in.  They submit environmental complaints in order to try and force a purchase of their land since it is being impacted.  In all fairness maybe it is, seriously what do I know?  I just find the whole dynamic pretty fascinating and thought I would pass the story along because it was something that never really occurred to me. And to be clear, since I have gotten some complaints that I get “political” when I talk about this sort of thing, that is not my intention.  It’s just a completely different environment than anything we have ever experienced and I am trying to find a way to describe it.

Along those lines that next thing that happened was also pretty strange.  A truck pulled in and I walked up writing down the license plate when the driver honked his horn at me. That startled me to be honest, because it was loud, and I have a routine.  I walked over to the vehicle and the gentleman inside said he wasn’t staying so I didn’t have to write the information down.  At that point I looked quizzically at him and he asked who we worked for.  After I told him, he said he worked for a different company and they were hiring, and then he just stared at me.  I just stood there unsure of what to say and then he continued.  He said, very abruptly, they were paying $175 a day, and at that point I thought I should say something. I told him we were already making that rate and after this gate were heading north and not gate guarding through the summer.  I wasn’t really sure what else I was supposed to say, and the guy just kept staring at me, and to be honest the whole encounter felt somewhat hostile. What did he expect me to do, pack up my rig and follow him?  And the entire encounter was extremely unprofessional in my mind, despite the fact that we are independent contractors.

I like the fact that we are not tied to any particular company and can go to whichever job suits us the best.  That being said, I can’t imagine leaving a job in mid-stream with no notice unless something really egregious happened. We made a commitment, and the company is keeping it’s end of the bargain, so why burn that bridge.  And although I don’t think there is anything wrong with some friendly recruiting, in my mind that is absolutely not the way to go about it.  If anything the encounter made me far less likely to work for them in the future, and again to be clear it wasn’t so much the conversation itself but rather the way in which is was handled.  We approach every job we take with a level of professionalism and I hope that never changes.  I may be wearing T-Shirts and jeans in these jobs that I do but that doesn’t mean my ethic is any different.  I am fully aware that many people disagree with that approach and more power to them, but that’s just the way Lee and I handle and I hope we will continue to do so.

On a funnier note, this last story was just silly.  When we replaced the toilet, we set the old one next to the water trailer in the field behind us and just kept forgetting to run it to trash container in town.  Although you can’t see it from the road, every time it caught my eye it really bothered me.  So while Lee was on the phone with his parents the other day I decided to at least move it into the bed of the truck.  When I went to pick it up, it was surprisingly heavy and I had to stop halfway to the truck and set it down in the road.  As soon as I did a mound of dirt came out which was crawling with fire ants.  Thankfully I only got one bite and was able to jump back pretty quickly. Lee, who saw it from far away on his phone initially thought that it was poop.  Thankfully that was not the case, but fire ants are no joke.  They were building a nest inside of the toilet and I was stunned by how many of them there were.  It could have been worse though as my sister reminded me when I was telling her the story.  She started laughing because she thought I was going to tell her one of the truck drivers had used it, and the visual of that happening cracked me up.  The entire incident really drove home how different my life is now, but in a good way.  Something like that happening in my prior life would have evoked feelings of embarrassment or horror.  The new and improved Tracy just thought it was funny though, and took it in stride. From my perspective that is progress although I don’t plan on having toilets in my yard on a regular basis 🙂

So that’s it for now, and I’ll let you know if anything else happens.  We have told the company that our last day will be March 16th, and have made some arrnagement to have some work rig work done.  Then we are headed to the RV-Dreams reunion rally where I can’t wait to reunite with some friends.  Afterwards we will be touring Utah and getting some million dollar views.  We appreciate you guys hanging in there over the last couple of months, because I know this hasn’t been very exciting. It’s an accurate representation of our life though, and since we have to finance this lifestyle, months like these are necessary to making this all work. Hopefully the excitement of the next couple of months will more than balance it out!

Oh and I also wanted to mention that the campgrounds I will be managing this summer are already pretty booked.  If you are planning on being in Oregon during the summer and thinking about trying to stop by and see us, you might want to send me an email at so we can coordinate.   Our friends Deb and Steve went to make reservations and almost all of the weekends were already  booked.  It worked out ok because we are going to have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off and they were able to find a spot during those days, but we were both surprised by how many spots were already reserved.  Cell service is pretty spotty up at Timothy Lake so if you are working you probably want to keep that in mind. And the sites have no services at all so the ability to boondocking will be required. Despite those inconveniences the reason it is booked is because the campgrounds sit on a beautiful lake with  views of Mount Hood.  Well worth the visit if you are in the area.

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Memory is a Funny Thing

A big part of the reason I started this blog initially was because I’ve never had a very good memory.  I was always good at my job because I had the ability to remember facts and figures in the short-term, but the farther back I go the fuzzier things get.  I’m also guilty of revising my own history and remembering things as I wish they were.  In particular, I am prone to use this tactic when thinking about stressful or chaotic moments and although in some respects that is a nicer way to live, when I started this full-timing journey I made the conscious decision to really face what was happening to me head-on.  That’s was one of the major reasons I started blogging.  I viewed it more as an online diary of sorts and the idea that more than a handful of people would read it seemed unlikely to me.   As a business analyst, I decided to capture my lessons learned as I went, just in case someone stumbled across the blog and would find the mistakes we made helpful.

Over the years, things have of course evolved, and as Camper Chronicles is closing in on half a million hits, I am still startled on how far it has come.  As our life and circumstances changed, the blog has changed, but hopefully it still remains true to what I originally envisioned.  Writing this book has been very interesting though, because in order to refresh my memory I have gone back and re-read many of my original posts.  I am completely aware that the story I told initially was not the entire story.  I never lied, but I certainly left big chunks out and for very good reasons.  Lee in particular had a high profile job in a small community, and we were extremely cautious of sharing our plan, before we were 100% certain we could pull it off.

Although I wrote the various steps to prepare “offline”, and eventually published them on my Becoming Fulltimers – Step by Step page, this was a summary of events rather than a moment by moment accounting.  I’ve always felt that the details of what happened and how it happened was an interesting story, and that was the genesis of the book.  I thought when I started this it would be relatively easy to fill in the blanks.  I had what I wrote both here and in the forum, and I also had my memory.  But as I said before, memory is a funny thing, and even though I have shared many of these stories in person with people, I am finding that the truth and the legend are not always the same thing.

Plus it’s not only my story, but Lee’s as well, and his truth and mine have always been two distinct things.  Finding a way to incorporate both of those perspectives into the narrative has been a little challenging, but in this first draft at least I have tried to be as accurate as I could be.  I mention this, because Lee has finally started his first read of the book.  Unlike the blog, where he occasionally jumps in and says his piece, the book, by design, will be in one voice.  The changes he makes, grammar and spelling aside, will require some discussion and although I totally trust him he is adamant that I review those changes prior to them being “written in ink.”

I’m totally fine with that, but I will say I was a little nonplussed when we had that first conversation this afternoon about an inconsistency on page 2.  I wrote that the idea to buy a little camper and take weekend trips  was his idea, and it turns out it was actually mine.  That’s a pretty big misconception on my part, especially because I have told that story 100 times.  I always tell it the same way because that’s how I remember it, and he never corrected me because when you are telling a campfire story it doesn’t really matter.  For the book though, he felt he should set the record straight and went on to give me a detailed account of the conversation.  Lee’s memory has always been better than mine, so I didn’t doubt him, but it was strange.  I remember where we were (in the car), what prompted the comment (we had passed by a small RV dealership on the way back from a weekend in New York), and how we both got excited about the idea.  But I truly thought this entire time that he was the one that  initially brought up the idea.  Here’s the very first paragraph I ever wrote in this blog and as you can see I never really said whose idea it was.

“Lee and I have been married and raising kids for a long time–a really long time. Over the years we have often talked about what we would do someday when the kids were grown and gone.  One of our ideas  was traveling around the country in a camper.  My grandparents did it for years. They sold their house, bought an RV, and spent six months traveling the fifty states.  The freedom of that was VERY appealing to me, and I’ll admit I had a completely romanticized view of what that would be like.   As we grew older, and frankly more practical, we still talked about it, but the practicalities were a larger part of the conversation and through the teen years there was always something going on.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, our first romantic weekend getaway in 20 years.  I kid you not, we had taken two vacations alone, but hadn’t had a romantic weekend alone since the kids were babies, and our oldest is 24, you do the math. We loved the weekend; we went to the Corning glass festival, stayed in a lovely B&B and really enjoyed each other’s company.  But the weekend cost well over $800 and on the 5 hour drive home were lamenting the fact that we wouldn’t be able to afford to do this very often. The subject of camping came up again, and as we often had, we started to talk about how great that would be but what the challenges would be.  This time though the conversation was different.  There were less challenges than ever before and oddly the idea seemed almost feasible.  You can cover a lot of conversational ground in a 5 hour drive! I had taken an extra day off from work so we decided to travel to Campers Inn (a large RV dealer in Nashua, NH) and take a look to see what our options might be.”

Actually reading that paragraph makes me feel better, but it also clearly illustrates the problem.  And although this is a memoir and I am not going to get too bunged up over minor inconsistencies certain things need to be correct. I guess I just thought that with all this information, it would be a little easier, but on occasion it actually muddies the waters.  Like now for instance I have been writing about our Quartzsite experience.  Although by this point in the blog, I was being much more open about the negatives of the lifestyle, I still was very careful about not offending anyone. Lots of people absolutely love Quartzsite, but we struggled from the beginning.  Plus we had lots of other things going on in our life (I had just quit my job for one thing) and I wasn’t ready to completely share those emotions. Going back and filling in the blanks has been pretty interesting, especially because I am looking at those events through my current day lens. I’m still not in any big hurry to offend anyone, but my experience didn’t happen in a vacuum and there were other people involved.

To some extent this has been a positive thing, because as I have been walking down memory lane, I am remembering how much support our friends have given us.  Writing a thank you letter of sorts to the people I love has been a really wonderful thing.  As many of those experiences we have had, there had been more conflict and drama.  My daughter Kyrston, who is my alpha reader, has found those parts the most interesting, and her reactions to certain stories has been pretty gratifying.  If nothing else it has really brought home to me how much I have changed over the last four years.  In some respects I feel like a completely different person to at least a better version of myself and taking a step back and looking at that objectively has been a truly amazing thing.

All that being said, I have no illusion that even this book will be the complete and absolute truth.  There are stories I will leave out because they are not mine to tell, and others simply don’t fit the narrative.  There are stories that are too personal to tell anyone, others that would hurt feelings for no good cause. As I write or edit I have to make those decisions and be extremely careful I am not “over editing”.  I don’t know if you remember, but last year I donated to a charity to have a one hour Skype session with my favorite author.  Despite the length of time now and then I sent her an email and asked a followup question about editing.  Not only did she respond quickly, but she wrote me a beautifully detailed response.  Although she was very careful to say that every writer’s process is different she did give me some amazing advice.  Since she is a much better writer than I will ever be, I’ll just share what she said here. Keep in mind she writes fiction, but I still think her advice makes sense.  There are just some additional burdens when you are writing about real people that I need to take into account.

“I have it constantly: fear of failing the story. Fear of failing the readers. It is, sadly, a normal part of the process, for me. And for most of the writers I know. Some have that fear at the start of a new book. Some have it in the middle (most that I know get middle-of-book-blues). Some reach that at the end (whereas I love endings).The process is personal. It’s highly personal. No two writers work the same way. So it’s hard to give process advice because it’s so distinctly individual.”…

“If you are making edits that are entirely motivated by fear, I’d suggest that you’re over-editing. I can move sentences around and change scenes when I’m in high anxiety mode – but I have no clear sense that doing this rearranging of furniture is actually making things better. I’m doing them because I’m in the middle of anxiety about whether or not it will work for my readers and I have to do something. What if it doesn’t work? OMG, it probably doesn’t… 

If you are making edits that clearly improve the book or the clarity of the book – or if you’re making edits in which whole conversations and characters change or plot points become suddenly sharply clear to you, I’d actually suggest that you’re on the right path. The book isn’t finished yet, even if you’ve typed “THE END”. You are still in the process of writing the book.”

Wonderful advice! The author, Michelle Sagara, actually took her complete answer and wrote about it in her blog. It is different of course because I can’t change the characters in my book, because they are real people with real lives.  I am however trying as much as possible to not make the story about them.  They get to decide how transparent they want to be in their lives, and as tempting as it is to talk about other people’s challenges so I don’t look like a complete screw-up, I’m not going to do that. What I will do is share those moments where they helped me or experienced joy with me and thankfully there are many of those.  For myself and Lee, I am trying to be as brutally honest as I can be and in certain sections the story can be a little rough on both of us.

And that’s the whole point I think, although it’s taken me awhile to get there. I told Lee today to make whatever changes he needed to as long as they were in service of the story.  I mean that, and it will be interesting to see the differences after he finishes his edit.  Whatever gets us closer to the truth I think I am OK with, knowing that ultimately it is impossible to achieve.  And in case you are wondering why I wrote all this down, I guess it’s to say there are things going on over here.  I write about my life, and this process has been a huge part of it these last few weeks, so I thought it deserved a mention.

Then again despite everything I just said, this is all that really matters

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

February Budget – Lowest Costs to Date

We had a fantastic month in February and achieved our lowest monthly costs in the year years we have been traveling.  All events conspired to keep our costs low, and it was nice to have the “perfect storm” work in our favor for once.  We only spent $1987 this month, and made $5350 resulting in a net cash flow of $3363.  This is very exciting because it should cover most of our costs in the month of April when we explore Utah. Details are listed below.


Groceries – We were under by $95 this month because we were both trying to cook the food we have in the RV.  It was also a short month, which of course helps with the food costs.

Dining Out – I am particularly proud of this category because we only spent $55. Usually when our grocery budget goes down our eating out costs go up, but this month we really kept an eye on that.  One of the things that helped is we both cooked several meals from my recipe book.  I’ve been so busy trying new recipes it’s been a while since we gave the tried and true a try and I was very pleased by how that impacted not only how well we ate but also our budget. Yes, this is a shameless plug for my recipe book, but it is also absolutely true 🙂

Entertainment – We went over by $38 in this category because Lee bought a couple of video games, and I spent some money on craft supplies.  Entertainment looks different when you are sitting still and we needed a couple of things to help with the downtime.

Cell/Internet – One reason our monthly costs are the lowest ever is because our base costs have gone down.  As I have mentioned before we are saving $100 a month with the AT&T unlimited plan and are very happy with it.

Memberships – For the time being I have decided to forgo our memberships for both Workamper News and Escapees.  We have been very happy with those memberships in the past, but since we have our year planned out from a work standpoint and aren’t planning on attending any Escapee events, for the time being I have decided to forgo them.  I highly recommend both of those memberships though, especially if you are just starting out, but at this time I am holding onto that $80.

Truck Fuel – Huge savings in this category because we just didn’t go anywhere.  One of the benefits of constantly feeling like you are going to get pulled from a job is you don’t stray too far from home.

Truck Insurance – Our truck insurance has gone up $70 a month, but after receiving some quotes we ultimately decided to stick with what we have for now. This may change, but we didn’t see any plans that we liked much better and are hoping next year the 2015 claim will “roll off” and the rates won’t continue to rise.

Health Insurance – Another big reason our base costs are down this year was the $200 a month savings in health insurance.  We have no idea why the costs are so much less, but are happy that things worked in our favor.  I am a little concerned about getting hit with some taxes at the end of the year, but we started this journey with $5K in an account for taxes and still have $1500 left so to some extent we are covered.

Home Repairs –  Lee has completed the bulk of the home repairs last month so we are under by $150 this month. We have one more major repair we are looking at completing before we leave the area, but if that happens it won’t be until March.

Overall I am extremely happy happy with the month and Lee is beyond pleased.  This is exactly why we are such huge fans of gate guarding and why for us it makes so much financial sense.  And it’s not like we feel we suffered this month.  We had food, were entertained, and I have gotten a ton of writing done. By all measures it was a very successful month for us and although we wish we could have seen our friends a little more and done a little exploring, that is the price we pay for some financial stability.

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Finishing Up?? Not So Much

We are both ready to take a break because the constant cold and drizzle is wearing us down.  Plus traffic has been pretty busy, but finally they took the big coil out yesterday.  One nice thing that happened was that crew had a big meal and they stopped at the gate and shared some steaks with us.  The cooker they pulled on a trailer was pretty neat and they had ribeyes that were braised in hickory flavored juice in big pans and I just grabbed a couple right out of there.  Lee was pretty happy because hey free steak and it was a nice thought that they shared with us.

Really cool trailer with grill and kitchen

The next day they started the workover portion and then after that the cleanup.  We heard that might take 3-4 days, but everyone we ask seems to have a different guess on that.   It seemed like lots was happening from the volume of traffic the gate was getting, but when my generator ran out of gas at 1am and I flagged down someone to get me some more gas, I learned that wasn’t the case.  The way I understand it the well has to be stable before they finish it and this one is still bleeding off lots of natural gas.  That makes sense, but then I learned that they weren’t sure when it would be ready. Once the well is stable they need two 12 hour days to complete the job but the big question is when it will be stable.  I still really don’t get it to be honest.  Sometimes I feel like everyone is speaking a foreign language and since we can’t see anything from this far away it’s hard for me to understand what is happening.  but we are getting paid and I had a pretty slow night, so that’s something.

One thing we did see for a couple days was a big ball of flame.  That was a bit of surprise when I walked out one night, but I later learned this was the natural gas burning off.

What I could see at night

The cows didn’t seem to care

Closeup with telephoto lens

The next couple of days and nights were relatively slow as well as we watched the workover phase get completed.  Since this was a completely different group of people, we weren’t really sure who was in charge, but Saturday morning one of the company men said they were close to being done.  Lee was told we would be done at noon that day, but then no one came and told us to leave.  We let our sales manager know that the phase was complete, but she asked if the gate was closed which we did not know.  Around 6pm our supervisor called us and asked if we had been released but again we said no.  There was no one back at the well and the gate to it was locked shut, but as far as we knew we were on duty.  I only had a few production trucks going to other wells, but went ahead and stayed awake.  I wasn’t sure what the traffic would be like and ultimately I thought it best not to mess with my sleep schedule.

Under normal circumstances we would have been totally fine for that, because getting paid for these slow days is awesome, but we have friends in San Antonio that we really wanted to see and were hoping we would have a few days to spend with them.  We decided to go ahead and prep the rig for moving, in case we were released suddenly and then I had an extremely slow night, which was pretty great, because it allowed me to get a lot of writing done.  I’ve been making some serious progress with the editing and seem to have found a rhythm, but I have also decided I need to write a little bit further before I end.  I never expected this book would cover our entire full-timing journey and I think a nice place to stop is right before we went to Alaska and started work kamping.  There’s some symmetry to that since we started with an RV-Dreams rally and it will end with another one, but that does mean I had to add some additional chapters.

After doing some research I learned that most novels are between 60K – 80K words.  I am at 45K currently, but by adding the additional few months should get there.  This book was always about filling the gaps in the blog, especially things that happened in the beginning, but I also want it to be a standalone work so that someone who never read the blog would understand our journey.  That’s a delicate balance since  I don’t want to be too repetitive for those of you who have read the blog from the beginning, but hopefully there will be enough original material (and the perspective from someone who has been on the road three years) that it will still be interesting.  As I mentioned before I am relying very heavily on my oldest daughter to give me feedback on content and flow.  She obviously knows the story and has been reading since the beginning and if she doesn’t find it confusing or boring, hopefully no one else will!

After workover was complete they started another phase and they were trying to “get the oil to flow.”  Once again this was a completely different group of people, and Lee was pretty busy all day. This crew ended up working past 9pm, which we were told is unusual,  because it rained (and hailed) on and off throughout the day and they were “fighting with the mud.”  Again we weren’t sure what the status was and the people we asked weren’t sure either.  Lee had the bulk of the traffic and since it was raining so hard he pulled the truck up and worked out of there for awhile. I got lucky and it stopped raining by the time I took over at 4pm.

Lee working out out of the truck.  You can kind of see how hard it was raining in the picture.

I was able to talk to the last company man before he left the site and he said the oil would start flowing tomorrow or the next day.  Then he said we would probably be here a few days after that which again confused me. The last gate we were released before any of these stages started, but we do know every landowner contract is different.  At this point, we are just riding this out, enjoying the slower volume days, and hoping we get done so we can see our friends before they all leave on March 1st and head to Arizona.  We would have people come down so we could make sure we saw them, but not knowing day to day when we will released that doesn’t make much sense.  So we are just going to ride it out and hope for the best and hey at least we are making money instead of spending it at a campground.

After a couple more days of talking to people who all seemed surprised we were still there, and hearing that the oil was flowing we finally got a text from our sales manager.  The construction company had decided to keep us because they were doing some work on another well and we were getting extended.  Even though it was shame we didn’t get to see everyone, it probably is for the best because we are hoping this extension will carry us close to the time we need to leave for the reunion rally.  We were a little concerned that it would be hard to get another gate with such a close end date so it really is a good thing we were asked to stay. The company man really likes us and mentioned briefly a couple of weeks ago that he might have some more work here.  I am guessing they decided to keep us over instead of having us leave and then getting another crew which is cool because we get paid for some relatively slow days.  I’m just glad we know now, so we can have our mail sent, which I have been holding off.  I want to get our taxes done before we head farther west so I don’t need to worry about that when we are enjoying our off time.

One more thing happened that was kind of interesting.  We got a call from our supervisor asking if we wanted to move to a $250 a day gate.  This gate is a busy one and has it’s own shack, and although the money was tempting the shack was not.  Many long-term/permanent gates have a small building that you work out of.  Sometimes you are allowed to keep your RV on the premises but other times you have to stay in a campground and pay for that cost out of the money you make.  Some people like those gates and they almost always pay at a premium, but we have discussed it and for us, that is not what we are looking for.  We like working out of our RV because it gives us easy access to all of our things.  Yes, we could still pop over when we needed to if the RV was on site, but we wouldn’t have ready access to our computer, TV etc. Theoretically we could use the laptop and another benefit would be during the time we were both awake one of us would be working in a separate space, but for us we would be giving up too much and at this point at least the extra money wouldn’t be worth it.  Again, personal preference.

The good thing was when Lee politely declined there truly was no issue.  As independent contractors we are allowed to take or reject jobs as we see fit and I will say every company we had dealt with has maintained that rule strictly.  They go to great pains to make it clear that there will be no penalty for refusing the work, which is a very good thing and appropriate with our 1099 status.  Plus as I have said before we really like this gate.  The paved area in front of rig has cut down on the dust tremendously and the easy access to town and strong internet is a terrific bonus.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Dealing With RV and Truck Insurance

When we first started full-timing, we were very concerned about insurance because we had heard that you really needed to have a special policy as full timers that would cover you in case you had an incident.  Knowing this we chose Miller’s Insurance, who specialized in RV coverage, and ultimately got a policy through Allied who is owned by Nationwide Insurance.  I was pretty relived that the company was one that I knew and not an off brand insurance carrier. Thankfully since we have been on the road, we have had two claims and they were both paid immediately.  The first was a major one, when Lee put regular gas in our diesel tank and our engine was destroyed.  That was by far the largest claim we have ever had in our lives and the insurance company paid $9K for a new engine.  Then last year we had a windshield chip from Alaska and had our windshield replaced.  Since we are Florida residents, windshield replacement have no deductible and that saved us around $1350.

Needless to say I have been extremely pleased with our carrier, but as our premiums keep creeping up, I was starting to get concerned.  I am a loyal customer though, and since the price was going up annually in pretty small increments I thought I could live with it.  But this month our premiums went up again and this time it was $70 a month, a whopping 43%.  OK, that is a lot of money, and although we had offsetting savings in other categories this year, we obviously wanted to know why we were getting a 43% increase.  Unfortunately that is a tough question to get an answer to.  Part of it was the claims, part of it was the hurricanes in Florida, and part of it was the higher cost of vehicle repairs.  Lee was pretty frustrated because he wanted a breakdown of how much of the increase was due to each factor, but if you have dealt with insurance companies you won’t be surprised that that didn’t happen.

So we did what any rational person would do and started getting quotes.  Yes, I am loyal, but I am also not willing to get screwed, so we wanted to see what else was out there.  That’s when the conversation became interesting. Turns out that we could get a better price on the truck (about $350 a year less), but if we split the RV and truck coverage the RV costs would go up $150 a year.  OK, we thought, we will move both of our coverages to the new company, but then we learned that if we did that we could no longer get total loss replacement coverage for the RV.  We bought the RV new in 2014 and our coverage has been for replacement value (around $70K).  This wouldn’t cover the Mor-Ryde, solar, or any of the other upgrades we have done, but would cover the $48K we have left on our loan and then some.  Unfortunately we learned that at this point the only new RV policy we could get would only cover present day actual cash value. Since that valuation is only $40K (and we might not even get that) not only would be out our RV, but also still owe money on our loan.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by all of this really, since I sort of understand why they wouldn’t want to insure us for more than the RV is worth, but I am really glad Lee delved into the fine print and found this out.  At this point we had a couple of choices.  We could leave well enough alone and just pay the extra premiums, at least for this year, or we can split the coverage.  Since we are still to the good with how much we have paid in premiums versus how much we have received in claims I was leaning towards just leaving it alone.  Lee absolutely did not want to lose the replacement value coverage and had the same concerns with a new policy on the truck.  We have replacement value on our truck as well and although we have no loan with that so actual value wouldn’t be a loss, it would probably be difficult to find a replacement truck with the money they paid out.

Which takes me to why I am taking the time to write all this out.  We get the question quite a bit of what we would do if we had a catastrophic incident (fire, collision, etc) and although we have thought through that scenario it is not something we dwell on.  Obviously we are not completely rolling the dice here, or we would have the cheapest coverage available, and we intentionally structured our insurance plans to give us what we considered reasonable coverage.  As a side note we also have $30K in personal item coverage on the RV, which should more than cover what we have in the rig.  In any event we have this coverage and now three years later faced with changing our strategy we had decided to continue with it as is, knowing full well that at some point in the future the monthly premium hikes may necessitate a change.

For right now, if we had a catastrophic occurrence we would take the money and try and pay cash for a new truck and RV. I will say this time around I would be completely open to buying something used, and since this particular model isn’t that common, if we got lucky I would try and find something very similar.  It is very likely that we wouldn’t have enough money to completely cover the costs and in that case we would have two choices.  We could take out another loan, which I am guessing would mean we would have to stop for a while and get “regular jobs” to qualify, or I could take a loan from my 401K and we could pay ourselves back with interest. Which route we took would depend on how much money we were short, but either way it would definitely be something we could survive.

Lots of people have to leave the road for a little while, and just because you take a break it doesn’t mean you can’t jump right back in once you have more money in the bank. I think there is a tendency to believe that this journey has to have a strict beginning and end, but that simply isn’t the case.  Especially at our age, since we are only 49 and 51, (just for the record, I’m the younger one. – Lee) we have lots of time ahead of us to make adjustments.  I mention this because the all or nothing approach was firmly in my mind in the beginning of all this, but now I know better. Many people we know have had life events that have temporarily sent them from the road.  Illness, deaths, grandchildren, finances all can play a part and taking a break is really that not big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.  Yes, getting started is a huge life change and for most people requires a steadfast commitment, but once you have done this for awhile and seen how many different ways there are to live the lifestyle, you can ease up on that all or nothing approach.

Do we think a catastrophic event will happen?  We don’t, but we are prepared for it in our own way.  Your preparations will probably be very different, and that is the way it should be.  I am just sharing our thought process, in case you haven’t talked these scenarios through yet, so you can see how we are thinking about it. Plus it gave me something other than gate guarding to write about!

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Warmer Weather; Busy Gate

Yesterday was jammed pack full of stuff, which I suppose is a good thing because I have been running out of things to write about.  The day started off well with an hour long meeting for our summer job, where I got more details about the position and some insight into my role.  I am very excited about it and think it is going to be a great summer, mainly because the people are nice and for a change in one of these jobs I will get to use my brain.  Let’s face it, gate guarding isn’t that mentally challenging.  On the rare occasion you might get something that takes a little thought, but mostly it’s get up, walk to the truck, write down the name and license plate, go sit back down.  Not tough stuff.

But that’s been ok for me, because I fill my down time with more creative pursuits and since I work nights I generally have lots of creative time.  Last night however was crazy busy.  The Frack phase ended and the work over phase began which meant a switch out of teams and equipment.  The traffic was at least four times what I usually get and there were lots of big trucks coming in and out.  The decent part was the weather has gotten warmer so I didn’t mind standing outside most of the night, but since this is our first time working between the frack and next phase I was completely unprepared for the volume.

Don’t get me wrong, I view this job as a job and make sure that I treat any downtime I have as extra, but I am also a human being and like I said I just wasn’t mentally prepared for that kind of volume.  I am not sure why they decided to do the switch out at 1am.  It might have been because a big storm was forecasted for the following day or maybe it was just to get it done before the weekend.  I wasn’t the only person surprised by that because the switch out crew all seemed surprised they hadn’t waited until morning as well.  It went fine, by the way, with people checking in and checking out, but by 3:30am when Lee woke up I was really tired.  Unfortunately I was also pretty wired and had a hard time falling asleep and then woke up very early.

The best part of the day was early on I had a hawk who was flying close by.  Seriously he was hanging out in the air over our rig several times and kept diving down into the field right next to our rig.   Beautiful bird and even several of the workers were watching it as they checked in and said it was really cool. I was able to get some shots with the long lens, despite the overcast weather, and it really was the best part of my day.

Picture taken as it hung in the area less than 15 feet above my RV. Very cool

The biggest bummer was I didn’t get to work on my book at all. My oldest daughter has kindly taken on the role as my Alpha reader, and her writing skills plus being outside of the RV community make her a perfect choice for this.  She is quick to point out when I use acronyms that make no sense to her and has given me some wonderful advice on structure.  With her generously donating her time, I feel the need to get through this second edit, so have mentally committed to a chapter a night.  Last night that just didn’t happen, because it is hard enough without being interrupted every five minutes. Just not a fan of the editing process as I have set this up, which means I really need to rethink that next time around.  Many people edit as they go and I think I am going to have to force myself to go down that route.  This definitely isn’t working as I find myself rewriting more than I am leaving alone and really slogging through it. Plus that energy doesn’t leave me much for writing the blog, although in all fairness it’s never fun writing this when not a ton of things are going in.  Basically I have found I have X amount of inspiration/time to write in any given day and  and I need to really think about which project to use that on. I’m still figuring it out.

Thankfully after a couple of days things really settled down and the pace has been nice and slow.  We get the occasional spike when lots of equipment comes in, but no where near the traffic from the turnover day.  With the slower pace I do find the days sort of blend together and I think more about the weather on a particular day than the actual day itself.  I have been watching the Olympics every night and as much as I am enjoying that it is certainly not helping me with the days.  Korea is a day ahead and I am constantly confused by which day I am watching lol.  Still all this time to really watch the events is really a luxury and I am truly enjoying it.

“Rush Hour” at the gate

No clue what this machinery does but it looks different than anything else we have seen.

A I am writing this it occurs to me I should probably take a moment and walk you through my shift so you get a feel for how things are for me. So here is what it looks like, keeping in mind that every gate is different.

  • 11am – 1pm – Get up.  My wakeup time is kind of all over the place and Lee just makes sure I don’t sleep past 1pm. Eat some toast, drink come coffee, take a shower.  During this time period I often cover for Lee so he can eat some lunch.  It’s nice to have a meal uninterupted and I like to do that for him when I can.
  • 1pm – 4pm  Check texts, emails and Facebook.  Run into town if I have an errand although I try not to go very often.  Blog, work on my recipe book, menu plan, make phone calls., basically any task that I can’t do while being interrupted.  During this time period Lee and I share the space, so I try to work around whatever he has going on.  If he’s watching TV I might work on the computer for example and if it’s nice outside I will often take over for him a little early and go sit in the sun and read a book.  I also eat lunch since I can eat uninterrupted.
  • 4pm – 7pm Work the gate, which includes a mini rush around 5pm (as the new shift arrives) and another around 6pm as the day shift leaves.  They must have a meeting or something because there is always a gap between when the folks come in and the other shift goes out.  This is by far the busiest time of day for me, so meals with each other is pretty much out of the question.  Occasionally on the weekend we will try to have steaks together, but it usually means I have to get up alot. I almost always do the dishes during this time period because that is an activity I can get interrupted while doing.  And sometimes I get hungry again and might eat something, but that just depends on the day.  Lee uses this time to eat his dinner and work on anything he needs that requires uninterrupted attention.
  • 7pm – 12pm – During this time period there is enough traffic that getting into anything too serious is frustrating because of the interruptions.  The Olympics has been perfect for that because I can watch and just step outside when I need to and I have also been filling this time with some crafts.  I also might watch a fluffy television show (like the Bachelor) or basically any activity that I can walk away from quickly.  Sometimes I will eat dinner, but other times just a snack.  It really just depends on how hungry I am.  Lee is worried I am not eating enough good food, and he has a point, but it seems like my body hasn’t really adjusted to the shift especially when it comes to meals. Lee typically goes to bed around 7 or 7:30 to watch something or read to fall asleep.
  • 12am – 3am – This is my slowest time of the night and when I can work on my book.  It’s great that it is so quiet, but not the optimal time for me creatively. Still I need to work with what I have and had been managing to spend an hour or so of this time writing every night.  The other time is spent watching more serious TV although I need to be careful about what I watch or I find I have trouble getting to sleep.
  • 3am – 4am – Lee gets up somewhere between 3am and 3:30am and as soon as he stirs I start the coffee.  Most days he takes a shower, gets dressed, and then comes out to face the day and I try to give him as much space as possible while he wakes up.  The traffic starts to pick up again after 3:30am so I handle trucks until he says he’s ready.  At that point I brush my teeth and head to bed, hopefully to fall into a deep sleep.  Generally I have been finding I fall asleep pretty quickly but some days it’s a little tougher.

Actually I’m kind of glad I broke all this down because I have been beating myself up a little over not being more productive.  I do wish I could get more done in the 12am-3am time period, but I have always been a person who worked best first thing in the morning.  Since my first thing in the morning is now noon (a very busy time at the gate) it’s not the best time to sit down and write.  Anyways, that’s all I have other than to say we think we should be done here by the end of the week and I am hoping we get a little break.  Even though the work isn’t usually difficult never having a full day off can wear on you a little.  You start to hear bells dinging in your sleep!  I’d love to have a couple of days to just chill with our friends, but we will see how it plays out.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search here

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.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.