First Time Gate Guarding – Setting Up

After we left the service center, with our furnace fixed, and our jack and axle issue awaiting word from the warranty company, it was late enough that we didn’t want to attempt driving down to Padre Island, so we went back to Leisure Resort Campground and stayed one more night. Since we checked in after 5pm, they asked if we could pay in the morning when they opened the office at 10am and we were happy to comply.  Super nice people at this campground, and the price was great at $22 with the Passport America discount. Plus as a bonus we got a visit from a really great cat.  I, of course, thought he should join our adventure, but Lee is holding firm on his no pet policy.  We did get some nice petting time in though and I fed the cat some tuna and milk which should hold it for awhile.  He actually seemed like he was in pretty good shape, so he could be from a local farm. (This cat is bold. When I came out in the pre dawn to smoke and have my first coffee, he jumped right on my lap and began negotiating to live with us. Nope. – Lee)

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Kitty Came to visit

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Jumped right into Lee’s lap 🙂

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Beautiful morning sunrise to start the day

So we took our time in the morning, packed up and headed out.  We were less than 5 minutes into our drive to Padre Island when we got a phone call from the gate guarding company we have been working with that they had a job starting tomorrow!  We originally applied with the company back in November (see post here), but although we had been in contact with them we had pretty much given up on getting a job in the near future.

The oil industry has scaled way back over the last year and a half, and although they are expecting things to ramp up again, no one knew when these new contracts would start rolling in.  There are lot of ads out there right now, but everyone seems to be building their list of folks for the upcoming expected boom, but nothing solidified yet.  Knowing that,  we continued to work on getting our licenses, mine came in right before Christmas and Lee’s actually came in Monday, but we were also looking at other options.  We looked at Work Kamper Newsour “go to” first,  but most of the available jobs were minimal or no pay.  We applied to a couple with no response which makes sense because many RV’rs are looking for work in the same few areas of the country.

After striking out there I started exploring other avenues.  I will say looking for temporary jobs is very different than the professional job searches I have done in the past, so different resources are called for.  I checked out Craig’s List searching for contract jobs, but since you have to put in a specific area I found these pretty difficult.  I looked at Indeed.com, again looking for temporary jobs, but most of those jobs were either temp to perm or frankly I was completely unqualified for because they required a skill I did not have.  We also reached out to others in the RV community and did hear about some concession jobs working at Houston and San Antonio Texas rodeos that Aramark had in February and March.  (We missed the deadline to apply to work at the Superbowl! That’s the sportsball game made famous by Andy Griffith. If you are unfamiliar with football, as I am, then please do yourself a favor and listen to this, it explains it very well. – Lee)  One good thing about the Aramark job was they did have a stipend for campgrounds, but the bad part was that you were on your own finding one.  Still it was a possible option, but I wasn’t getting a great feeling from anything I looked at.  Temporary jobs just aren’t as common as they used to be, or maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places, and we were even talking about going to an employment agency, but again “where” came into play.  It’s one thing to look for a job if you know where you want to be, but quite another with a more open ended location, and truly I was just getting frustrated by the whole thing but trying not to make myself too crazy.

So that was our state of mind when the call came in, so we jumped at the chance even though it was only $125 a day for a 24/7 shift, with no idea how long the contract would last.  Yes, the job was on the low side of the pay scale, but it would come very close to covering our budget, and more importantly we would get to experience gate guarding and see if it was for us.  (Plus, most gate gigs are 24/7, so you aren’t out spending a lot. – Lee) So we made a U-turn the first chance we got and drove 2-1/2 hours to the town of Dilley, Texas.  Dilley is pretty small (population 4,070), but it has a small convenience store, dollar store, laundry mat, and a couple of restaurants.  Since it’s right off I-35 it’s only about 20 minutes to the nearest town that has a Walmart and large grocery and a small hospital.  We are located on a small (for Texas) ranch about 5 minutes outside of town and this is very unusual as most of the gate guarding jobs are in much more remote locations.  We also have decent ATT wifi, which is great, and they are bringing us a booster because their tablets are ATT also, which is very good as well.  But I am jumping ahead on the story.  Let me back up a bit.

Day 1

We headed in that direction, and the company sent an Account Manager down to meet us.  We ended up meeting her at a local Phillips 66 truck stop (there weren’t many places we could fit our rig while waiting) and the Account Manager went out to the site to see if our pad was ready.  Unfortunately they were still working on it (they add a lot of dirt and gravel, roll it down, wet it, and roll it again to give you a nice level pad) so she came back and talked to us.  We had two choices.  Stay on the ranch, near the field, or stay at one of their (the gate guard company) office locations.  Since we were all set up for boondocking (water in the tank, full propane tanks, etc) we decided to just stay at the ranch.  First she drove us out to make sure we could get in and turn around and then we followed her back out.  The spot was actually super nice and we were set up in no time. After giving us a warning to watch out for rattlesnakes (!), she said she would see us at 7am.

Road we drove down on the ranch

Road we drove down on the ranch

Nice site for one night

Nice site for one night. There is collapsed homestead behind us, that’s where the power lines go.

The next morning the Account Manger came and got us and we drove up to the gate.  They were just finishing up the pad and we started talking about where exactly to place our rig when the trailer with the fresh water tank, generator, and light tower arrived.  Our pad is on the smaller side, and we wanted to make sure it was as far as we could get it from both the trucks coming in, and the generator (which runs 24/7 unless we want to turn it off during the day) so we started to talk it through.  In the past we would have rushed through something like this, but we both know how important it is to be comfortable in your space, and it’s a pretty big pain to change once you are all set up.  The Account Manager was very patient with us, allowing us to take all the time we needed, and she started checking trucks in for us as they started to arrive.  Eventually we picked a spot and got the service trailer in place, plus the black water tank was delivered as well so that was all hooked up.

The flat bed with water tanks, diesel fuel, generator, and lights

The flat bed with water tank, diesel fuel, generator, and lights

The generator engine

The generator engine

Black tank. The company added the PVS pipe which was nice

Black tank. The company added the PVC pipe, which was nice

Everything was going pretty well at this point.  We are extremely level, the generator (which we both had major concerns about) was far enough away that it wasn’t too loud, there were no smells from the black tank or generator, and water was hooked up. I was learning the job and it seemed pretty straightforward.  Log truck in, log them out, and be friendly.  There was more to it of course, but compared to what we have been doing recently, pretty simple. (And no heavy lifting, or getting pine needles in our underwear. Don’t ask. – Lee)  Everyone was super nice and very chill, and I was definitely liking the vibe of the whole thing. The first thing that went wrong was the lighting mast. In the picture of the service trailer you can see the lighting mast sort of laying down on the top of the generator. There is a hand crank and a wench that pulls a cable to move the mast to an upright and vertical position, then another crank that telescopes the mast to about 30′ in the air. Steve was cranking it to the vertical position when the cable broke, and the mast fell back down. So someone will be coming out tomorrow to repair that, and in the meantime, they are bringing another smaller trailer with just lights and a generator so we can have lighting tonight. It’s really, really dark out here at night.

Our gate. We temporarily worked out of the back of the Account Managers truck until we got setup

Our gate. We temporarily worked out of the back of the Account Managers truck until we got set up

Then we ran into a problem.  We had discussed how we would handle any issues if they came up the evening before and were going with our new plan of talking it through and seeing what the response was, instead of waiting to see how things turned out.  Since this was a brand new site, as most gates are, we expected there to be some issue or another, and for us it was the fresh water.  We were told the water was NOT potable, only suitable for showering, and dishes, but the tanks weren’t certified, so the water shouldn’t be used for drinking.  (I am one of those people that worries less about water than most. I won’t drink water that is clearly not safe, but generally I trust it, and I’ve never had a problem. – Lee) OK, not perfect, but we had two filters, plus we could add bleach to the tank and we definitely thought we could make that work.  Unfortunately, when we tried running the water through our system the filter clogged up within 10 seconds, and the pressure dropped to zero. Lee cleaned it, and again, it clogged up very quickly. At this point we knew something was very wrong.  It turns out that the tank, (which we were told was scrubbed and sanitized prior to receiving it) has algae and the algae was clogging things up.  Let me show you a couple of pics.

This amount was after 10 seconds of the water running

This amount was after 10 seconds of the water running

Water straight from tank

1/2 gallon of water straight from the tank

Just to be clear, the problem wasn’t the city water the company was putting in the tank, but the tank that the third party vendor provided.  At this point I went in to take a nap for the evening shift so Lee dealt with it from there.  Folks were concerned, but no one was exactly sure how to solve the problem.  Most people just remove the filters and mesh screens from their rigs to prevent the clogging, but we had discussed it and were not willing to do that.  Once the particles got into our rig, then we could have clogs throughout the system.  And just to be super clear, water was included in the contract, but we weren’t holding the line on whether it was drinkable or not, but we both felt that it should be clean enough to flow through our system.  Lee was very polite and helpful, but firm that the problem needed to be solved.  (My mantra was “it doesn’t need to be potable, but it does need to flow. – Lee) We even offered to use our fresh water tank, but since they would have to fill it every three days instead of weekly, they weren’t crazy about that option.

They came out and rinsed and scrubbed it again, but we had the same issue

They came out and rinsed and scrubbed it again, but we had the same issue. (Worst mechanical bull ever. – Lee) 

Eventually the account manager pitched it back to the vendor to solve (where the problem belongs, in my opinion) and we are waiting to see what happens tomorrow.  Apparently all of their water tanks are in this type of shape and he thinks he would need to buy a brand new one to make this work.  The vendor did say he could bring a 150 gallon tank out as a temporary solution tomorrow and then try to get approval for purchasing a new one.  Frankly I am not surprised this isn’t an issue for more people, but maybe it’s just us. In any event, I feel we handled it appropriately but only time will tell. Either way, it is much better than the alternative of just accepting it and then being unhappy for the next couple of months.

After 6pm when the water vendor left things really slowed down.  We didn’t have any more trucks, but the ranch down the road had still had some throughout the night.  We aren’t sure how busy we will be at night here, but someone still needs to be available, so we have decided to split the evenings.  I am going to work 4pm – 4am and Lee will work 4am – 4pm.  That way I get to go to bed in the dark and fall asleep while it’s still reasonably quiet and he gets some quiet time in the morning as well.  (And of course there’s a lot of overlap where we’re both awake, which is basically noon-9pm – Lee) We will also be able to eat dinners together because it will be lunch time for me and dinner time for him.  Not sure how it will work out, and we are certainly open to changing it, but we wanted to give this a try.

Since I have the night shift I was a little worried about the dark since we were warned about both rattlesnakes and illegal immigrants.  Rattlesnakes are out early this year, but will hopefully stay away from the area because they don’t like the vibration from the generator.  If they are not close just leave them alone, but it was recommended we use a hoe to push them out of the way if we see one in our direct path.  Since we don’t own a hoe we were given a baseball bat by one of the guys who works for the company which was super nice of him, but I think we are going to get a hoe at the local dollar store if they are cheap. (I’ll be looking for a 35 ft hoe. – Lee) The gate guarding positions in areas close to the border are all manned by police officers or retired police, and they are armed, so obviously this can be serious, but we are being told it is unlikely because we are on the east side of 35 (apparently that is a dividing line of some sort).  If we do see something we were told to be careful not to provide food or water of any kind because “word would get out” and we would become a routine stop. If they need medical attention call 911 but otherwise tell them we will call border patrol.   I’m pretty uncomfortable with the whole thing, so am glad we have such a well lit area.  It’s just part of the deal, and I do appreciate the clear direction on what to do even if the scenarios are unlikely.

Newly painted gate lit up at night

Newly painted gate lit up at night

Light beam allows us to know when a truck pulls up. Works pretty good

Light beam allows us to know when a truck pulls up. Works pretty good.  We have one on inside and one on outside

We can adjust the lights later, but for now we are all lit up which is not the worst thing

We can adjust the lights later, but for now we are all lit up which is not the worst thing.  Apparently animals will check us out the first couple of days and then give us a wide berth, so having the lights keeps them at bay as well.  Later we can aim them on the gate and hopefully less on us.

First night went well.  I didn’t get any trucks, although the busier gate down the road had a few an hour overnight.  I enjoyed the quiet, to be honest.  Been a long time since I had this much quiet time.  It was nice.  I also got a ton done.  I applied for Amazon for Lee and I for next year, wrote this blog post, got caught up on email, and watched The Bachelor, which Lee is not a fan of, so I always try to find time to watch alone.  Will see how it works long term, but so far so good.


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