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.

BRRR It’s Cold

As much as we like gate guarding, it isn’t much fun when the weather is bad.  And we’ve had all sorts of this weather this week, with lots of rain, lots of wind, and some extremely cold nights.  Thankfully, for us, there was a bit of a technical issue at the well and the traffic was lower than usual, but it’s still pretty cold, especially during shift change when I am outside in the weather trying to write on paper.  If it’s not windy, we try to stay under the awning as much as possible , but when it’s raining and windy out in the elements we try to keep the paper dry as much as possible.  Still it’s not New England winter, and I think of that when I start to feel a little sorry for myself.  I just really prefer those nice, sunny days!

Here I am in long johns, gloves, winter coat, and ear muffs. The wind was tough this particular day.

We’ve stayed busy despite the bad weather.  I have really enjoyed watching the Olympics and we are getting some great coverage especially late at night while I am working, which is cool. The only down side is it’s on regular TV so there’s no pause button and I swear I won’t have a truck for 20 minutes then right in the middle of the American ice skaters I’ll get three 🙂 I did get to watch the Canadian ice dancers long program all the way through…absolutely amazing.   Lee also decided to do some work on the computer, including formatting and changing out our C drive, which is extremely time consuming.  He picked a Sunday (our slowest day) and started working on the changes.  I woke up a little early and things were a bit chaotic, but I appreciated that things seemed to be going well.

He was doing this and jumping up to take care of the gate.

 

He was using the laptop and TV as a monitor

 

Good chance to clean everything out and move things around

So that went better than expected until we realized we had lost a file.  And that file was for my second recipe book.  I work off a special program so was forced to put the file in one place on the computer and that was the drive that was formatted.  I didn’t think to mention it and he didn’t recognize the file for what it was since it had a different name soooo long story short I lost about 70% of a completed book.  And yes, it was my only electronic copy and yes, that was pretty stupid, and boy was I upset about it.  But what are you going to do, so we started trying to figure out what we could salvage.  At the end I found a PDF I had run back in November so that leaves the recipes between now and then.  Two of those I found in the trash (thank heaven Jeremy’s chicken marsala recipe was still in there) and the rest I have the pictures in a backup file, but don’t have the actual recipes.  I’ll need to see if I can recreate what I did, and if not, well that’s just the way it goes.

I don’t feel cavalier about it in any way, but no one was hurt and it’s just “stuff” for lack of a better word.  It does represent hundreds of hours worth of work, which does sting, but hopefully I can find a way to recreate it with less effort.  I had the PDF, which I may try to edit in that file, because if I use the Bookwright program it will not allow me to copy and paste so I will have to hand type every recipe back into that program.  Anyway, I know people have bigger problems, but it was rough and I know Lee felt really bad, but really I should have had a backup file.  That’s on me.

Update:  Lee felt really bad about what happened and after we tried multiple programs to import the PDF we finally realized it would all need to be retyped.  Since I am not a huge fan of the Bookwright program, I tried to create the template in Microsoft Publisher.  I got pretty frustrated pretty quickly.  Creating templates from scratch was never my thing, so one morning while I was asleep, Lee not only created a template for me, but he also retyped every single recipe into the new format.  Wow…just wow. That was an incredibly generous thing to do and seriously made lemonade from the lemons.  So now I have almost everything from before, in a format I can use easily going forward, and I am only out a couple of recipes, which I am pretty sure I can recreate.  Really love that guy. 

On a completely different side note, one positive thing is I finally finished listening to those training webinars and have all my Professional Development units finished.  Slogging through all of those was not fun, but now that it is done I can redirect that energy into the book about us going on the road.  I sent the first three edited chapters to my oldest daughter Kyrston and she really liked it, plus she gave me some valuable feedback which I can incorporate in.  I just need to quit avoiding the editing and commit to doing at least one chapter a day.  I also need to let go of the idea that it will be perfect, because perfection can be the enemy of achievement.  It’s a story, and yes it’s a bigger one than these blog posts, but at the end of the day it’s still just a story.  That’s what I need to keep in mind or it will never be good enough.

The high point of the week though was when Kelly and Bill came down to visit.  Bill has been doing solar installs, but he took one of his breaks to come and see us which was very nice.  Bill is working for RV Solar Solutions now and is an incredibly competent guy.  If you have been thinking about solar and need someone you can trust to do it, I highly recommend Bill. You can see his spring/summer schedule on the RV Solar website if you are interested. They brought pie and we made pork chops, potatoes, and corn and it was wonderful seeing them.  Plus traffic was pretty decent and the weather that day was a little milder so the guys hung outside and watched for trucks while I cooked.

We did all get to talk inside a little bit

 

Kelly cutting the chocolate pie

 

Which was really, really good

 

During dinner I was doing trucks and then dishes and she took over for me and finished them which was so, so sweet.

 

We really appreciated them making the 1 hour and 45 minute drive and being understanding about the truck traffic.  Hopefully we will get to see them before they head to Quartszite, but if not, definitely at the reunion rally!


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.

Milton Signal Bell And Flashing Light…..Not Good Enough™

After using the modified Milton Signal Bell for a few weeks I decided…..it Isn’t Good Enough™. While the light inside works very well, it needs to be somewhere in your peripheral vision to see it. It’s not bright enough to overpower the lights in the rig, and it certainly isn’t bright enough to notice if you’re not in the room. And generally speaking if you’re doing anything in the rig that makes noise, you generally can’t hear the bell outside. Since the circuit is so simple, and everything works off of the simple diaphragm switch in the bell, I decided to add an additional feature, a classic mechanical two tone “Ding Dong” doorbell.

I was able to pick one up at the local Do It Best hardware store for the very reasonable price of $14.99.

A household doorbell is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s powered by regular old household 120v AC, which goes to a transformer, which knocks it down to 16v AC. The transformer is separate from the doorbell box, and usually is mounted somewhere in the house where it’s out of the way, because it’s ugly and bulky and would make the bell box that hangs on the wall bigger and heavier. Then there’s small gauge bell wire that loops to a momentary push switch (the door bell button) to close the circuit.

Here’s what it looks like:

When the switch/button is pushed, and the circuit is closed, electricity flows from the transformer to the solenoid inside the bell box which pushes out the striker/plunger to smack the first bar, and give you the “ding”. When the button is released, the electricity stops flowing, the solenoid is de-energized, and the spring on the solenoid pulls the striker/plunger back through the solenoid where it smacks the second bar, which gives you the “Dong”. In cases where you have a rear button which produces only the “Ding” or the “Dong”, that is accomplished by another striker that smacks one bar, but on the return stroke it’s blocked by a barrier so it never gets to the second bar. Imagine going through your whole life only living up to half of your potential because a tiny piece of plastic is in your way. Depressing.

And here’s how it works:

 

Just for fun, this is how it SHOULD work…

In my case, I don’t want to put the button out on the road because it would last for exactly one “Ding Dong” and then it would be ground into powder by the second set of wheels on a truck, and I already have a “button” in the form of the diaphragm switch on the bell. So I’m simply extending the circuit for the bell and the light and adding this one in. Which means the wire that normally runs between the solenoid, the switch,  and the transformer just gets shorted to run between the transformer and the solenoid. If I were to plug the whole thing directly into an outlet wired that way, it would “Ding” and the constant flow of electricity would just hold the striker against the bar, presumably for all eternity. But since it’s plugged in to the other circuit, I’m extending that signal bell switch to do double duty.

I also put on an extra long lamp cord power line so I can put it where I want it, and because I might want to turn it off, I put in an inline rocker switch. It works like a charm, and is loud enough to be heard over the TV or running water, wherever we are in the rig. It looks a little rough because of the transformer, so I am going to find a box that I can use to hold both the transformer and the doorbell mechanism.

It was easy and fun to do, took about 45 minutes, and cost $ 27.82.

Now it’s good enough, for now.

UPDATE: The doorbell turned out to be REALLY loud inside the rig, and Trace would jump every time it would go off, so I put a little strip of Gaff tape on the tone bars so deaden it a little. Worked like a charm. And I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’re using duct tape, just…stop. Get yourself some gaff tape and thank me later!

Here’s a super short clip of it functioning, with bonus Tracy directing trucks in and out in the background.


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.

Drilling Crew Out and Frack Crew In

As I have mentioned before, different teams of subcontractors complete different phases of an oilfield project, and when those teams switch out it can be a bit chaotic.  We have heard lots of people talk about the frack phase in particular but up until this point we have not experienced a full switch, having been brought in or left mid phase on both of the other gates we’ve worked. All I can say is it is crazy busy.  The volume has jumped astronomically and we are both busy on our shifts. What can be particularly challenging is when big equipment is leaving and coming in at the same time, and although this was somewhat staggered we did have a couple of instances where we had big rig traffic coming in and out at the same time, which can be tricky.  I kind of enjoy the challenge to be honest because I get to be bossy to my heart’s content, but if it’s busy (I had one 30 minute period where 15 trucks came in and 10 left for example) I do get a little harried.

Here’s an example of big traffic coming in and going out. These drivers are REALLY good though

Thankfully the drivers are all really good about following directions and the rule that incoming traffic always has the right of way does seem to be universally understood.  Our main goal is to keep people off the road, which requires some quick thinking when there is a line of trucks.  First and foremost all we do in those situations is get the plate number and if possible the company.  We wave them through and write really fast so we can mainly keep traffic in continuous flow.  One thing that suffers is the paperwork.  I have a teeny bit of dyslexia and on occasion my numbers get jumbled, but the company man was very clear.  The priority is always safety, and trucks sitting still on the main road is not safe.

The scope of these moves is hard to explain, although one anecdote may help.  At 1am I talked to some guys who went to Mcdonald’s and the 40 cheeseburgers they ordered really ticked off the night crew.  There are tons of people coming and going all day and night and for Lee in particular it’s been super busy.  I’ll just share some more pictures with you so you can get a feel for things, but the main point is sometimes there is no downtime in this job.  That’s important to know if you are thinking about trying it.

\

Even with the pavement we get some dust from these big guys

You can see me for scale. These things are huge

 

 

Here’s me being bossy lol. I thought I looked more intimidating than this 🙂

You can see the incoming truck for scale . This one was crazy big

 

Lee looking official

I have no idea what most of these things do, Lee think most of it was designed from Dr. Seuss drawings.

 

 

I will on occasion get out in the middle of the road but for obvious reasons try to keep that to a minimum.  If you are wondering why I don’t have my vest on, it’s a bee magnet.  We have set out bee traps but in the meantime any bright colors and they land right on you. So Deb no gate guarding for you.





The biggest bummer of the whole thing for me was they actually took the drill tower down after dark.  I really wanted to see that and take some pictures, but it all happened late with just floodlights on the area, which honestly surprised me.  I guess I thought they would have waited until daylight. Here’s the last picture I got of the drill towards dusk.

 

We did have a beautiful full moon though that was orange when it was close to the horizon but got white as it got higher in the sky.  There was also a lunar eclipse but we missed it since it was cloudy in the morning.

And last pic is one of the hawks in the field.  They have been around less with all the hoopla…or maybe I just don’t have time to notice them, but I got this cool picture of a red-shouldered hawk, which was a first for that bird for me.

 

 

So it was a crazy few days, but I am thankful to say that things have calmed down quite a bit.  We haven’t started the frack process yet, and expect some steady traffic through that, but for now the major big equipment moves all seem to be done.

 


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.

And Just That Quickly, Things Change

One of the great things about being on a gate is that you have time to do all the little tasks that sometimes get lost in the day to day when you are traveling alot.  Right before we left the last gate I was finally able to update the pictures hanging in the rig of my two oldest girls, from their high school senior pictures to their wedding photos.  Since I haven’t had a chance to share these in the blog before I wanted to take a moment and show you the pictures we chose.  We even printed them ourselves (a first for me) and they turned out beautifully and now hang in a place of pride.

My middle daughter Kat and her husband Micah. It only took me 2-1/2 years to print the photo 🙂

 

My oldest daughter Kyrston and her husband Jeremy. They just got married this summer so I did a little better on the turnaround time on this one!

 

No matter what else happens in my life, I am truly blessed to have three amazing girls, and with these husbands I am going to have some beautiful grand babies!

OK, so back to our travels.  We had to wait at our gate until the service tech came out to take the equipment away, but he rearranged some things to get there a little earlier and we were on the road by around 11:30am.  It was a long drive from west Texas to New Braunfels, but we were motivated since our friends were there and made it in less than 7 hours with only two quick stops for food and fuel.  We arrived at the Lazy L&L Campground after dark and the office was closed, but our friends Kat and Bert went up to the office for us and secured a spot two doors down from them.  And when we arrived Cori and Greg were driving in themselves, and they led us right to the site.  Rock star service!!

It was really great seeing everyone and the campground was really nice, with extra large sites and a nice view.  After we got set up, Kat and Bert fed us some late night Bolognese (I know, fancy right?) and the we called it an early night.  One of the tough parts of changing gates like this is adjusting your sleep schedule, and I in particular had a hard time going to sleep earlier.

Our campsite was really cool

 

With a nice view. We couldn’t see the water but it was right in front of the house across the way

 

Really nice fire pits too, which unfortunately we didn’t get to use because it was raining

 

Our buddies Bert and Kat! So great seeing them.

 

The next day Lee walked down and paid for four days because we had been told we definitely, wouldn’t get a gate before Monday, and I ended up sleeping in until 10:30am.  I had planned on doing some exploring with Kat and Bert, but since it was overcast and rainy we decided to push it to another day.  I had just woken up when we got a call from our gate guarding company.  They had an immediate need for gate guards at a gate 60 miles south of San Antonio, and could we be there tomorrow?  Since the rate was $175 and it was in a much nicer part of Texas it was hard to turn down.  We did ask if we could wait an extra day, but they said they needed us right away so we said we would be there.  We hated to tell everyone we had to turn around and leave, but really felt like we needed to jump at the chance.  Plus, being so close to San Antonio makes it possible to still see people, and since this gate may only last for a few weeks there is a good chance we can get back.  The good news was the campground refunded us for the extra days, which was incredibly nice of them. By the way they have an outstanding monthly rate if you are ever looking for a place to hang out in Texas.  It’s $40 a night but only $14 a day if you stay for a month!

Once we found out we were leaving, Lee and I ran to Camping World because we wanted to take a look at toilets.  I know, my life is incredibly exotic.  Our valve had been acting up a bit and since it was three years old I wanted to see about getting a new one.  Lee could have just replaced the valve, but I really miss having a porcelain toilet and wanted to see what my options were.  Turns out they had one model I liked, the Revolution 320, but we weren’t 100% sure it would fit because it was 2″ longer.  Lee had measured the existing toilet height and width, but he didn’t measure from the hole to the wall, which is an important measurement when replacing toilets I guess. Anyway, it was fine, because we didn’t have an immediate need, and I was happy that we were able to take advantage of our time off to see it together. That is one thing that is a drawback of gate guarding; you have to do things separately, which normally we can make work, but this particular task really required us both to be together.

Afterwards he dropped me off at a nail place while he went to Home Depot and Office Depot.  I really wanted a pedicure since my feet have been pretty beat up since Amazon. I went to this really great place as a walk-in and got a pedicure and eyebrow wax for $43.  Awesome deal, and they were super nice.  The timing worked out perfectly too because Lee got done 5 minutes after I did, so we went back to the campground to get ready for happy hour.  Cori and Greg had made plans to have us over at their place for drinks and dinner and we were really looking forward to it. As always, we had a wonderful time, and we got to meet John and Cathy who met Cori and Greg when Greg installed their solar. It was really fun getting to know them and their two puppies Phoebe and Leila!

Cori, me, Kat, and Bert being goofy

 

Cori showing Cathy her springform pan for the InstantPot. I have to get one of those for baking cakes

 

Cathy showed us this cool pen she bought to mark her wine glass

 

She even premarked Kat and Bert’s for them which was super nice

 

And no surprise the puppies wanted to hang out with Greg and Lee. They know who is a soft touch.

We had a wonderful time, but had to leave kind of early because we needed to head out by 7:30am so we could get to our next gate by 9:30am.  Thankfully we hitched up with no issues and although I didn’t get much sleep were on our way in no time.  We met our service contact at a small yard and then followed him to our new gate.  In case you are wondering how the switch works, it’s a little tricky.  The pad only holds one, so they have to pull out before you can pull in.  Simultaneously you always get at least one truck and you are doing the pass over while traffic keeps happening.  This was our smoothest transition so far though because the road is actually paved!  And there is plenty of space for us to park while they finished disconnecting.

Waiting for their rig to pull out

 

Then we pulled in

Lee hooked up us lickety split and I watched the gate while he finished talking to our service guy.  It’s really nice here, with MUCH less dust with the pavement and the site was very level.  There is cow poop in the area, because apparently the cows like to come down this way to do their business, but it doesn’t really smell and the views are very nice.

I was a bit surprised when around 3:30pm I looked out the door and saw this

 

The trucks have to honk to get them to move. So funny, and beats the heck out of coyotes lol

We even can see the rig for the first time, although I am happy we are not right on top of it, but it’s cool to be able to see what is going on. We also really like our service tech and we met the company man who is extremely nice, which is great since those two people really can impact the experience.

You can see the rig in the middle of the picture, it;’s still pretty far away.

 

Here’s a closeup I took with my zoom lens

Cellular is strong, we can see the tower from our front door. We’re only 6 mile from town, and there is a Walmart, an HEB, a UPS store and Chinese and Pizza Hut right in town. The TV signal is strong and stable, which is awesome, because great football is on tomorrow.  So far we really like it here and are glad we accepted the job,  Not sure how long it will be until frack, but we will enjoy it while it lasts.  Plus, if we get another break we can pop back up to New Braunfels and stay with friends again.  Make a little money and be close to friends, it’s the best of both worlds! Plus there are at least 12 raptors in the field behind us.  Watching them swoop and dive is pretty awesome.

 


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.