Mouse, Gate Guard Ladies, and a Rattlesnake

I know crazy title…right?  But it’s been a crazy kind of a week, and things were all over the place.  Before I get into it though, the very best part of my week was getting the results of Kyrston’s ultrasound and finding out she is having a baby boy!!  I loved having daughters but have always wanted to be able to do the boy stuff!  So that’s pretty cool. And the baby looks perfectly healthy and normal which is the most important thing.  He’s definitely photogenic as you can see from the picture 🙂

Baby Boy Klouse

OK, so back to the week.  Well, first of all we had a mouse and it was a big one.  We see signs of mice pretty regularly in the belly of the RV, but rarely do we see them in the rig itself.  It was a quiet night and I was watching TV, when a fat one scurried across the living room floor.  Jack was napping and didn’t even see it, but the next night he did and spent quite a bit of time growling at the area by the sink.  He kept looking at me as if he didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t sure either.  On the one hand if he caught the mouse that would be good, but then I would have to deal with it.  Ultimately he didn’t go after it and Lee caught it in a trap the next day.  That was a relief!

The next day was more excitement because I was meeting up with a group of Gate Guard Ladies.  I have been in a Facebook group with these women for a couple of years, but have never been close enough to attend one of their gatherings.  This lunch was in Cotulla, only 30 minutes away, and I was thrilled I would be able to go.  I was a little nervous of course because I had never met any of them in person, but turns out they were a great group of women and the Mexican restaurant they picked was pretty yummy.

Small Mexican restaurant

 

The restrooms were clean and had this VERY unique “redneck plunger” in the corner which cracked me up. I have a couple of friends who might like one of these.

 

Wonderful group of women. As you can see I’ve put on a few pounds gate guarding.  I’ve been baking quite a bit and it’s definitely having an impact lol!

As someone who is blessed with a really close group of full timer friends, I always find it interesting to see how new groups of full timers I encounter will compare.  What I affirmed was that there are as many ways to live this lifestyle as there are people living it.  There were people in the group that were brand new full timers and others who had been on the road for ten years.  One thing that I found interesting was several of us started full timing with little RVing experience, which is more common I think than people realize. Most of these women gate guard most of the year and although they have tried other jobs, they prefer it because of the freedom.  There is relatively minimal hassle or drama in these gate guarding jobs and many of the women tried camp hosting and much preferred this type of work.  One thing we all agreed on was it was a good way to sock away some cash and although we all had vastly different approaches to how we covered the hours, there were lots of commonalities.  The conversation just flowed and I really enjoyed getting to know them.  And if you are a woman who ever gets a gate guarding job, I highly recommend this group.

I was the first one to leave because I had to stop at the store and get home to relieve Lee.  He starts his day at 3am and I didn’t want him to work too late.  I was barely home and we had just unloaded the groceries when we had a unsettling incident.  One of the oilfield guys pulled in and told us he had seen a huge rattlesnake on the road heading towards our rig and intentionally run over it.  He knows us from this and other gates and was trying to help us out.  Unfortunately it wasn’t completely dead, so we watched to make sure the road was clear and he ran back over it again.  Super nice guy!

Lee talking to the driver

 

This was the snake in the road we could see it was still moving

 

A huge semi came down the road but missed it!

 

So the driver backed over it again for us!

 

Lee went out later and took this pick. He said its body was as big as his arm.

 

Although we have had one up close and personal experience with a rattlesnake in Arizona (see blog post here) this is a little different because now we have Jack.  I take him for walks at night and he loves going into the nearby brush, but I’ll need to make sure he stays in the road.  I’ll also have to make sure I wear the head lamp when I go out and it becomes very important to always look down.  This is the first time in three years we have seen one even this close and we have been really lucky.  In the past we were at gates with lots of hawks and/or road runners and they do a great job of keeping them away.  Plus, we usually leave before it gets warm enough to have to deal with them, but the past couple of days have been on the warm/humid side.  In any event we will keep an eye out and it caused enough excitement that it was definitely worth mentioning.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Hobie and Jack Reunited

After a few days of very minimal traffic, the drilling rig finally started to arrive.  The good news was that our supervisor told us to just wave the big trucks through and not worry about capturing their information either coming in or going out.  The reason for this policy is the gate is a single width (only 16′)  and the big trucks just barely fit through.  The last thing we want is a traffic jam, which would result in trucks needing to back up or sitting out on the road, which is incredibly dangerous for a county road with a speed limit of 70mph.

We very much appreciated the common sense policy and wow has it made a world of difference.  Instead of going out to the gate and opening and shutting it every time, we simply lean out our door and wave the big trucks through.  This new policy was even more appreciated, because the weather cooled down very suddenly.  We went from 90 degree weather with 80% humidity to 41 degree weather with 37% humidity in a matter of a few hours. It’s great not needing to stay outside or even bundle up since our stints outside are much faster.  Most importantly because of the new policy we were able to see Cori and Greg!  They were passing through on their way back from a trip and wondered if they could stop by.  Since we have a large patch of grass they could fit their little RV in AND we knew we wouldn’t have constant interruptions we said were thrilled to see them.  We love it when people come and see us while gate guarding, but it is no fun when you have to stop every five minutes and run out to the gate.

As soon as they arrived I grabbed Hobie and brought him in the house and Jack went absolutely ballistic.  He not only remembered Hobie, but jumped all over him in glee.  They were moving so fast I couldn’t even get a non blurry picture, and this was the best one I could get.

 

I also wondered how Jack would do with Cori and Greg since he has been pretty suspicious of any strangers we have seen, but he obviously remembered them.  He jumped into Cori’s lap and was all over Greg throughout their entire visit.  I don’t know if it is because they smelled like Hobie or he remembered them, but it was really amazing to see. It has been two months since we have seen them and it was like it was yesterday.  Hobie, of course, remembers his Aunt Tracy and he settled in quickly, stealing all of Jack’s toys and exhibiting his usual “thug dog” behavior :). But he was also very patient with Jack’s exuberant puppy shenanigans.

Jack in Cori’s lap

 

Thug Dog!! Hobie and Jack look a ton alike.

It was great seeing them and very nice that they went out of their way to stop and find us.  We aren’t exactly off a main road out here, so you have to really want to see us to visit!  The only downside was Jack was super bummed after they left and starting whining as soon as his friend Hobie was gone.  He bounced back after a few hours but there was some serious moping going on.

Sad Puppy

 

I finally took his dog bed out of the crate and let him attack it and that cheered him up.

The next day I headed into Cotulla for the first time because I needed to pick up a package we ordered from Amazon.  When you are gate guarding it really matters what the nearest small town has in the way of services and Cotulla wasn’t that bad.  They have a small ACE hardware store that accepts packages, and a decent Lowe’s grocery store.  The Lowe’s stores are in several of these small towns and actually have a decent selection.  The prices of course are much higher, but if you buy what is on sale you can get some nice items.  They also have really decent meat and their beef in particular looks very nice.  It is all guaranteed Texas beef and in general Texas beef really is better than any other we have had.  We will need to travel an hour to Pearsall for an HEB or Walmart, but it’s nice to have a store 20 minutes away for bread and other quick items.

After checking out the hardware store and the grocery store I drove a little around town and as things go it wasn’t that bad.  Because it is right off the interstate (and near the oilfields) there are several hotels and small restaurants.  There is a McDonald’s, Wendy’s and a Pizza Hut which is a pretty rare thing, and nice for those days when you want to treat yourself.  It’s certainly not as nice as Kennedy, Texas (where we stayed last year), but much better than Encinal.  Everything is relative.

The package that I had delivered, was actually something I saw on a Superbowl commercial.  I am not an impulse buyer, but I saw this dog bowl set with a storage container underneath and it looked interesting.  It is better for dogs to not have to lean down to eat their food, and the storage compartment solves another problem we were having with where to store the dog food.  Added bonus, this should work much better on travel days and truly it is perfect for a dog in an RV.  The Iris elevated dog bowls come in multiple colors and is Jack approved.  They come in three sizes and we measured him before selecting the medium size and he immediately started feeding from it.  It has been awhile since I have been this excited about a new purchase and I only wish we would have gotten one earlier.

Fits perfect under the hanging baskets in our kitchen.  It holds up to 14 pounds of dog food, which is great.

 

And Jack dove right in.  I like that the bowls are large so less filling.

Speaking of packages, Kyrston got her last present and loved the rattle I got her.  She even spent some time going through her “special box” from childhood and found the bear that she came home from the hospital with.  One good thing I did as a parent was save items for the kids in plastic totes.  Every kid has two of them, and when we sold the house we made sure they went with them.  I had forgotten that the bear was even in there, but apparently I saved both the bear and the clothing she came home from the hospital in.  It’s always nice when you have a good parenting moment, especially for something you did 30 years ago!!

The Bearington Baby fox rattle I bought. The eyes are stitched, not plastic, so there’s no choking hazard.

 

And her original 1989 bear.

Finally, we had a truly spectacular sunset this week.  The colors were so deep and red and it’s a bit disappointing that I couldn’t capture the colors to what my eye saw.  Lovely though.

Jack checking out the sunset. The cell phone didn’t come close to getting the reds.

 

I pulled out my long lens and Canon camera and it did better.

 


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Celebrating New Year at the Gate

I’m not much of a New Years person so being at the gate didn’t really bother me.  I didn’t even watch the ball drop, although I was awake and certainly could have but instead watched dome Downtown Abbey and kept to my normal routine.  I did spend some time on New Year’s day though watching the Rose Bowl Parade (crazy how the float got stuck) and the Rose Bowl game which Ohio State won.  Both New Year’s Eve and New Years Day were very quiet which was nice and it seemed like lots of people weren’t working that day.

Speaking of work I wanted to take a moment and try to explain what this job is like.  Essentially we are living on the corner of a huge western ranch and our sole responsibility is to open and shut a gate when cars/trucks come in and out.  Generally it’s pretty easy work, especially when the volume of vehicles is low, but it can be pretty unpleasant when the weather is bad, which is was for a couple of days.  Some gates are left open in bad weather, but this particular one has to be physically opened and closed every time and standing in the wind and rain isn’t fun.  Thankfully those days have been the minority and most days are really beautiful.

Mostly we have only a smile and nod relationship with the people we open the gate for but on occasion a salesperson will stop by and give us a present.  Bringing food is a pretty common sales technique down here and sometimes we get lucky.  The other day the job sites refrigerator was full and we received a huge rib eye, homemade gumbo (which was excellent) and some root beer.  It’s totally random and we never know when it will happen but we are always grateful for being included.

Two pound monster steak. Jack loved the bone

Frozen gumbo had sausage, shrimp, and chicken. Lee LOVED it!!

Old fashioned rootbeer

I do understand why they want the gate monitored here though because the cow herd definitely understands that the gate is a way out.  They have been getting closer and closer as time has gone on, but Jack has been surprisingly good at chasing them off.  The other day the entire herd was edging closer and all of the young make bulls (with horns) were facing us, but I took Jack out and his bark actually chased them off.  I heard the guard before us had a blue heeler who kept them in line so they are somewhat conditioned to keep their distance.

The cows aren’t the only animals though, because this is a really wild stretch of land and there is lots of wildlife.  We have seen deer, bunnies, hawks, and various birds and a couple of days ago two HUGE javelina hogs walked across the road about 30 yards from us.  The pigs are of particular concern because they will attack people and kill dogs, but thankfully we only saw them that one time.  I wish I could have gotten a picture to so how big they were but they crossed the road pretty quickly and disappeared into the brush.

That’s the thing about this ranch the land is pretty inhospitable.  There are huge cacti, burrs, and thorn trees everywhere so we mainly stick to the road when we take Jack for walks.  I’d love to walk around a bit, but between the pigs, snakes, and coyotes we here in the distance, I always keep the RV in site.  It’s a bit like living on the edge of a large nature preserve except people work here.

Despite the difficult terrain, this continues to be a spot for people to try to cross into the US.  Lee sees border patrol almost every day, and the other day four cars came in and captures 14 people who were trying to make the crossing.  I don’t want to get political and talk about whether or not a wall would work, but I do think it’s important to mention that here on the “front lines” there is a ton of activity.  I don’t think I realized how much of this was happening down here, but the frequent passes by helicopters and other vehicles make it a bit like living in the inner city.  At night I often see activity right across the highway from us and it appears as if people are being picked up (either by border patrol or others I can’t tell), but so far no one has approached us and I am minding my own business.  Again not saying its a crisis or anything but there is alot going on down here.

Border Patrol helicopter hovering very close by

 

It is pretty though and we have had some spectacular sunsets.  One in particular on New Year’s eve was really special so I took several pictures.

 

So what have we been doing??  Well I have been watching lots of football, reading, and working on cross stitching the baby blanket.  Lee on the other hand has been very busy because he has rediscovered ancestry.com.  A couple of times in our marriage he has been very interested in genealogy but always got stuck at a certain point.  There have been major breakthroughs in his family tree though and he has traced his paternal line back to 230 BC.  He’s been having a blast with it and I am glad he is enjoying himself because we have lots of time to fill.  Seems like a ton of work to me, but he is really into it and good for him.

That’s it really, and again I don’t know when the next blog post will be.   Nothing much exciting going on here at the moment, and I don’t like to write when its the same old same old.  I did want to throw things open though like I did last year and if anyone has any topics/questions they would like me to discuss I’m happy to do it.  Just pop me an email at camperchronicles@gmail.com and I’ll write a post about any topics you have an interest in.  Otherwise I’ll post next when something happens.

 

Take care,   Trace


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase our ebook telling the story of how we became full time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Jack Gets Acclimated…Sort Of

It always takes a while to get acclimated to a new gate, and with Jack it’s been much more challenging.  Not that he is not worth it, but the poor guy has no idea what is going on, and this is a VERY different place than where he came from.  For us we quickly learned that this is a high profile gate, because this ranch is owned by one of the largest land owners in Texas. Consequently when they say they want the gate shut between every vehicle, they mean that, and of course we are complying.  Our first gate was like this so we have some experience, but it is a ton more work when you have to get up and physically open and shut the gate every time.  That’s the gig though, and we certainly weren’t in a position to be picky.

On the plus side the small area right in front of our RV is paved (which helps with the dust) and everyone is incredibly well behaved.  Since high level folks from all the companies are in and out of here, folks are being really good about following the rules.  I generally don’t have any problems at night, but Lee has run into some challenging folks during the day at other gates, but so far not here.  Another reason for this might be that for the first time we have to take pictures of the vehicles.  We use an iPad to log them in and out and we take a front and rear view shot of the vehicles when they come in and go out.  Doesn’t add too much time to the process, but at night the picture quality is not great.  And I was really glad when our supervisor said that getting vehicles off the road was the most important thing.  That way when they stack up, we can just wave them through and catch them on the way out.  That practice keeps everyone safer.

While we were trying to sort all that out, Jack wasn’t doing so great.  We are lucky to have a nice long sandy patch of road to walk him on, but he wants to go into the grass which has stickers and heavens knows what else.  The first day we have two huge Caracao birds in trees just looking at him, and we knew we would need to keep a close eye.  Plus, when he gets the stickers in his paws, he doesn’t seem exactly sure what to do with them, so we are spending lots of time cutting them out of his hair.  Soooo glad we didn’t pay to have him groomed, because that really would have been a waste.  Despite lots of sandy places to go we couldn’t get him to poop that first day.  The truck noise was really freaking him out and he kept getting distracted when we tried to take him out.  He didn’t have any accidents thankfully, but we spent lots of time trying to get him to go to the bathroom, which made our day a little harder.

The second full day though Lee decided to attack the problem.  First he put up our popup tent in the hopes that Jack would feel more comfortable with a place to stay inside as the trucks went by.  We also tried numerous places where we could put the lead rope, and finally I found the perfect spot where he couldn’t get in the road, but could wander around a bit near the rig.

Lee putting up the tent. We bought the sides while in Oregon and they really help with the wind at night and setting sun during the day

 

Lee even put this little fan up that Greg had given us! Fancy!! We also had a table to charge the iPad, a desk lamp, and a heater. It’s like a little room now.

 

Lee taking the stickers out of Jack’s foot. Thankfully he’s really patient when we do it.

 

The lead allows him to get on the stairs, go in the little room, and go behind the rig a little.

 

He can even get on one of the chairs

These changes, along with Jack getting used to the road sounds seemed to help and he finally pooped.  Since then he has been going frequently although not on a regular schedule.  Part of the problem is his sleep pattern is interrupted. He really likes to be with us, and isn’t taking well to being left alone in the rig while we are outside.  So, he is sleeping with Lee from 9:30pm until 4am and then taking a walk and then coming back to sleep with me until noon.  I know that’s too long to be in bed, but he prefers that to being alone.  He did spend a little bit of time just hanging out alone in the rig today, so hopefully over time we can work on that.

Our biggest concern is that he doesn’t really have time to be a puppy so we started doing a couple of things to help with that.  We are taking him for lots of extra walks and in the evening, when it’s slow we do let him off leash for just a little bit.  Lee stands at one end of the road and I at the other and we call him and he runs back and forth. We are keeping a close eye because of course the we don’t want him to take off, but since it is for a short period of time so far it’s OK.

The puppy can run!! Update: unfortunately he got a little courageous and wouldn’t run just to us, so no more zoomies while we are here, unfortunately. 

He also has discovered that at night there are moths flying around the lights and goes crazy on leash jumping and catching them.  I got a little worried because he was chomping so many but looked it up and moths appear to be OK.  It makes him really happy so I am letting him do it for a little while at least, again when it is slow at night.  Actually things have started out slow at this gate and I am super grateful.  Don’t know what this would have looked like with a steady stream of trucks, so appreciate the time to get us all situated. Now that we have gotten things set up, we are largely following his lead.  If he wants out on the lead or inside with people we try to let him have his way. Like I said not sure what that looks like when it gets busier but its the least we can do for the little guy. I will say all the drivers think he’s pretty cute and as Mikki mentioned they do go much slower when they see him.  He’s adjusting as are we and I am sure in no time he will be a spoiled, experienced gate dog.

My little ranch dog with the straw in his mouth 🙂


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 amazon.com. 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 Amazon.com 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 camperchronicles@gmail.com 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 amazon.com. 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 Amazon.com 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 amazon.com. 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 Amazon.com 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 amazon.com. 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 Amazon.com 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.