"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, lots of changes

We started the year out celebrating with our friends Steve and Trish. We went to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. We stayed out until the wee hours of the morning ringing in the new year and had a great time.
Little did we imagine that 365 days later we would be sitting in our 5th wheel 15 miles from the nearest town out in the giggle weeds of Texas :-). Life is funny that way I guess.
Living in our 5th wheel is nothing new to us. We sold our house in 2009 and have not regretted that decision at all. Being able to travel and see some different areas of the country has been our dream and we have been working hard to make that a reality. Our plans were altered in June when Rudee was laid off. Neither one of us anticipated this and were in a state of shock for several weeks. Luckily we were in a good position to "move on" but felt bad for some of her co-workers who had just purchased houses or had young kids and were doing their best to "get by". The layoffs were extra hard on them.
We took stock of our situation and "made lemonade out of lemons". I walked away from my job in October and we headed out for adventure, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead"!
Thus we find ourselves in Texas where we are able to boost the bank account a little so we can continue our little adventure.
We do miss the friends we left behind in Indiana and look forward to seeing them again in the spring. We are not missing the Indiana winters and defiantly not missing our high stress former jobs!
Our immediate family have been very supportive and we thank them for that. Other family members and some of our friends have been a little confused as to why we are doing this and don't seem to understand why we want to follow a dream. I suppose this is not unusual since being a full time RVer is not their definition of "normal".
So what will 2012 bring? Who knows, but we are looking forward to a fun ride. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 30, 2011

left hand, right hand

We are pretty settled into a routine here at the gate but of course that routine changes with each new process that starts. This week they have started hauling the crude oil from the original well. The trucks tend to arrive several hours apart and this usually occurs in the overnight hours which interferes with my beauty sleep. Lord knows I needs me beauty sleep! :-)
Seriously though I am starting to feel the pains of my sleeping in shifts. Seems like the longest I am asleep at any one time is 4-5 hours but usually less and it is beating me down. I'm looking forward to the time I can relax and get a good 8 hours sleep straight through.

One of the company men left this morning on his way to Houston for training on his new rig. He stopped and talked for a awhile and still wants us as his gate guards. He said his new rig should be setting up somewhere south of Cotulla on the 15th of January.
We had pretty much decided to just stay here but may keep our options open. He is going to email the new pad location to us as soon as he gets specifics and I will go and check it out. I can't see us leaving here to end up several miles down a dirt road in the middle of no where. We like our current gate but it is nice to have some options.
The ranch owners son was in today and confirmed they are moving the rig out as soon as they get done drilling. he said they will then move a new rig in and drill a 3rd well on another pad "back there". He said he hoped we would be staying put because he liked the job we were doing at the gate.
What?! That's the first we have heard of a new rig. I didn't even know there was a third pad.
Later in the day I decided to take a drive to find this mystery pad. I drove back to where they were drilling and there was no sign of another pad or even another road to reach another pad. Right now I don't know what to make of this info but one thing for sure about the oil drilling business. The right hand doesn't seem to know what the left hand is doing, at least at our level anyway :-).

We are still planning on taking some R & R after the first week of February. This will give us same time to decompress before we start working our way back to Indiana in the middle to last part of March. I plan on sleeping the first 2 days straight! :-)

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous. The high today was in the low 80's and we enjoyed spending time outside sitting on the patio in short sleeves. The last of the mud is almost dried up from last Saturdays rain. We still have one low spot in the driveway in front of our 5th wheel that we have to step around but that is only a minor inconvenience and with pleasant weather predicted for the next few days, it should be dry soon. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

big truck mechanic

My morning was pretty busy after 6am checking in trucks that were bringing in more and more pipe. A crew also arrived with a large fork lift to unload the trucks. At one time there were a total of 13 semi trucks hanging around somewhere on the back pad. I'm sure it was getting crowded back there.
I was up shortly after 1pm and after a shower I started working on the Freightliner. I had the battery charger hooked up all night making sure the batteries would be at full power just in case I had to crank the engine a lot to get it started.
I removed both fuel filters and got the new ones out. They were a little different with the new ones being about twice as long as the old ones. I was not sure if maybe NAPA had sold me the wrong filters and instead of taking a chance on the new ones I decided to just fill the old ones back up with fresh fuel and re-install them. This is a messy process and there is no way to do it without getting soaked in diesel fuel. Maybe I should say that's they way it is with me, I'm sure there are professional mechanics that can do it and not even have to wash their hands afterwards. Me, well I had to take another shower! :-)
Once I got the filters back on and tight I started pumping the little hand pump on the side of the engine. I had been warned this could take a while so I pumped and pumped and pumped some more until I had a lot of resistance in the pump. I tried to start the truck and ........ no go, RATS! So here I go, pump, pump, pump and I kept pumping until I could hardly push the pump in because of the pressure. I tried starting it again ........ crank, crank, crank ..... vrooom! The big Caterpillar engine lives again! I let it run for quite awhile to smooth out the engine and to make sure all was well with it. Man I'm glad I got it going, all I could see was $$ heading out the door to get it running again :-(.
The company man stopped and talked to us for a little while today. He said they are about 2000' from being done with the drilling and should reach that by Sunday if things go well. Once they reach the desired depth they will set the casing pipe in and then tear the rig down. Probably going to be at least another week for all that to happen.
The weather continues to improve with highs flirting with the 70's but still getting pretty cool at night with the lows in the upper 30's. We do love the sunshine and can finally sit outside on the patio some.
One of the workers here gave us a 10lb bag of grapefruit. No way Rudee and I can eat 10 lbs of grapefruit so we divided it up and I delivered some to the surrounding gate guards. There is a new gate just west of us so I dropped some off there and met David, a single gate guard working this location. David asked where we were from and I told him Indiana. He said he grew up in Indiana and wanted to know where we lived at. I told him we lived in Lebanon while raising our kids and he got a funny look on his face. He told me he also grew up in Lebanon and left there when he joined the Army eventually landing in Texas. We knew a lot of the same people and had a good time comparing notes of our old hometown. Small world isn't it?
We had some bananas that were getting a little over ripe so Rudee turned them into a nice banana nut bread for us to enjoy for the next several days. She also made a home made pizza for supper. I'm going to have to start exercising soon or I'm going to need a new wardrobe! I'll keep you posted.

pipe dreams

We have several semi truck loads of well pipe being delivered which signals the beginning of the end on drilling the well. We have also found out some more info on our rig here. Looks like this rig is being "released" and will not be moving to a new site according to several sources we have talked to. Rudee talked to one of the company men yesterday and he is being sent to Houston for additional training for a couple of weeks and he will be assigned a new rig when he returns. He said they should be done drilling here by mid-January and then the rig will be dismantled and taken away. I'm not sure where that leaves us but he did take our contact information and said he wants us at his new rig and well site. The problem with that is no one knows when or where this rig will set up. They will still need to frack the new well so we can stay here for the time being which should get us at, or close to, our ending date in February.
Fracking was our least favorite time here. We don't mind being busy but it seemed like the crew was not as friendly as the drilling crew. They seemed pretty put out that we were "bothering" them by writing down their name and license plate number and we quickly tired of their attitude. I'm not sure if the same crew, or even the same company, will frack the back well but who knows.

Yesterday I messed up in a big way :-(. The freightliner had not been started for a few weeks and I decided to fire it up. I opened the hood and checked the oil. I also opened the drain valve for the water/fuel separator and drained some of the fuel from it. This unit has a separate fuel filter and as the fuel passes through any water collects in the bottom of the unit and can be drained by opening the valve. I guess I let too much drain out because after starting the truck it ran for a few minutes then chugged like it lacked fuel and died. Now I can't get it to start again :-0! There is a small plunger type pump on the side of the engine to "hand pump" any air out. I pumped it some but still it would not start. I decided I would go ahead and change out the fuel filters and by filling them full of fresh fuel before installing them the truck should start once again with minimal pumping. At least that is the theory. I already had the filters on hand but it was getting late and dark so I decided to just wait until tomorrow afternoon to see if I can get the truck running again.
I guess if my fix doesn't work we will need to get the truck towed into a shop. That doesn't sound cheap :-0. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas day

The gate was fairly quiet Christmas Eve and there were only a few of the workers who live close enough to make a mad dash home to spend the day with family.
Santa did find us out here in the middle of nowhere Texas :-) and we each a couple of presents to open Christmas morning. Rudee got some new "bling" and I got a Kindle reader that I had been hinting to Santa that I wanted.
I went to bed after opening gifts so I could get a little sleep after the night shift and when I woke up the 5th wheel smelled wonderful. Rudee had been busy cooking. She had turkey, baked beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, develed eggs and for desert we had home made pumpkin pie. UMMMMM, everything was delicious and we both ate too much :-).
Sunday evening we got a skype call from our kids and spent 45 minutes talking to all of them on the computer. We enjoyed seeing and talking to everyone. Skype is really a great tool for fulltimers to stay in touch with family and although our signal was not the greatest we could spend time with everyone and it helped ease the pain of being away during the holidays.
We actually had some sunshine today which was a welcome Christmas gift. The weather is supposed to clear up this week and we are looking forward to things drying up around here.
After dinner I downloaded my first book to my new Kindle. Nick Russell is a fellow fulltimer and publishes a newspaper from his motorhome while he travels. We got to know Nick and his bride Terry several years ago at a Life on Wheels Conference and have ran into them a few times since. He has written a mystery novel, Big Lake, that is available on line at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Big-Lake-ebook/dp/B00522RM48/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1324891061&sr=1-1
I started reading it this evening and had trouble putting it down! What a deal, less than $1.00 for a first class mystery novel! He is currently writing the sequel and I am looking forward to it coming out.
Tonight is shift change and usually proves to be a busy time for me overnight as the incoming shift arrives for their week of work. They usually start drifting in around 9pm and this continues until the wee hours of the morning. Then there is the rush shortly after 6am with the guys getting off the night shift head out the gate to start their week off. Sunday nights and Monday mornings are busy times in the life of a gate guard :-). I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Rudee and I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

We got word Friday morning that Rudee's Mom came through her procedure with flying colors. She stayed in the hospital overnight but is now at home recovering.

Saturday was another day of rain and we had a steady drizzle most of the day. The mud is getting difficult to work in but we are trying to make the best of it. I guess we are having a brown Christmas this year :-). They are predicting a warm up and sunny skies for next week. We are keeping our fingers crossed. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"big, big, big"

The company we work for provides us with a couple of light stands with two "construction" type lights mounted to each stand. I turn these on every evening and off again every morning and they light up our little world here in South Texas. :-)
The last few nights the moths have been really bad swarming around the lights. I'm not sure where they have been up to now but of course like every thing else "Texas style" they are fairly large.
The biggest moth I ever saw was in Indiana though. That was way back when the kids were small and we were camping in our little pop up camper. We were at a State Park spending the week end and had set up one of those cheapo shade canapies that you put over a picnic table. You know the kind that are just a tarp with a pole on each corner with an adjustable center pole. The ones that are a huge pain to set up and no matter how you tie and stake the poles down the tarp always sags way down between them. Well we did our best to get this saggy, floppy tarp up to provide us with a little shade and some protection should it rain.
One night we decided to play a game with the kids so I rigged up the laturn for some light and we had some good quality family time :-). The moths were attracted to the lantern but were not too big of a problem until "moth-zilla" showed up. This thing had a wingspan of at least 6" and I thought it was a bat. Mothzilla flew under the canapy towards the laturn and I guess changed its mind because as it tried to fly back out it got caught in the sagging part of the tarp and that is when it got interesting. The kids started yelling, the moth was flapping against the tarp and we were all trying to untangle our legs from beneath a wooden picnic table! All I could say was "big, big, big"! :-)
We all got out from under the tarp including mothzilla and were none the worse for the wear. The kids, all now grown and on their own, still like to remind me of my heroics that night in the campground when all their brave father could do was "duck and studder". :-)

We seem to be in a weather cycle here in Texas. We have 2 cloudy days and then a day of rain followed by 2 more cloudy days and then more rain. Last night was our "rain night" and it started around 10 pm. There was several times it came down so hard that we lost the signal on the sattelite. The steady rain continued, mixed with some heavy down pours, until the wee hours of the morning. Once again we are slogging through a mudhole here at the gate. :-(

The local bobcat made another appearance just before the rain started and Rudee got a chance to see it too. There used to be a lot of bobcats in Indiana and I remember my Dad telling me stories about seeing them when he was younger. I'm not sure there are any still around there.

Rudee's Mom is having a stint put in her heart tomorrow morning in Indianapolis. Rudee has been keeping in close contact with them and even though it sounds fairly routine there are always risks involved. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

1/2 done

Yesterday we started our 8th week doing gate guard duties at the Hinkle Ranch. Rudee and I sat down and had a long conversation about what our future holds and made some decisions.
We decided to go ahead a move with the rig when they leave here in another 10 days to 2 weeks. We have no idea where the new drill site will be but it should be in the Cotulla area from everything we are hearing.
We will work that gate until the drilling is completed there and then we will call it quits. This usually takes about 30 days so we are looking to be done no later than February 13th. That would give us 14 weeks straight and we are both ready for some time off.
Our plan is to find an RV park near San Antonio and hunker down for a week or so to clear the cob webs out and get some quality sleep (read: no bells dinging!). After that we will move East toward Louisiana and I am eyeing the area around Vicksburg, Mississippi where we could spend some time seeing the sights and, if the weather is decent, taking some motorcycle rides.
The well they are drilling now has been a bit of a struggle for them. The rig shifted during the drilling and started leaning to one side. This caused some concern for a few days but didn't delay them much. They had a big review type investigation and one of the things they are changing is how we do our job here on the gate. We are now required to get full names of all the people inside each vehicle passing through the gate. Up until now they only asked for the first name of the driver and we could wave through any semi trucks. This will be a little more work for us but no big deal. One thing for sure though, I'm glad the fracking is over because everyday a shuttle bus would come with 8-10 of the workers on board and then at least one or two SUVs with 5-6 each. Thats a lot of names to write on one little line :-).
Yesterday the company man, Earl, drove up and handed us a package of Ribeye steaks. There were two, thick, 16 oz steaks in the package. We decided to freeze one of them for later and have the other one for supper tonight. I got the grille and small propane tank out of the basement and set it up on the back of the semi. Rudee made a salad and baked potato while I grilled the steak. The whole meal turned out great and we only got interupted one time to check someone in.
The weather did warm up some and we have even seen the sun :-) They are predicting the temps to drop again with highs in the 50's and lows in the lower 40's to upper 30's for the rest of the week. We'll take it though, beats the snow and cold up North! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 19, 2011

and then there's mud

I guess the powers that be got sick of all the mud by the drilling rig because Saturday morning a steady stream of caliche trucks started through the gate. This continued until well into the afternoon with truck after truck coming in, dumping its load and then exiting. We heard a rumor that some big wigs might be coming and they were trying to "clean up" the place.
Unfortunately early Sunday evening the rains started again with a steady drizzle that lasted most of the night so once again we are slogging through the mess.
We get a lot of people stopping at our gate looking for other rigs. Some are not real happy when we are unable to give them directions on where they are supposed to be. I guess they just don't understand that we have little information on what rigs are moving in and out around us. I'm sure they are just frustrated on being lost but give us a break, it's not our fault :-(.
We do our best to keep as up to date with the locations as we can but these companies come and go fairly quickly. The sites here can have several different names for the same place which adds to the confusion. They go by the ranch name, oil company name, drill rig name, or gate name. Some of the truck drivers don't even have this basic information but only vague directions. No wonder they are lost!
The weatherman says it will warm up and clear off today so maybe we will see some sunshine soon! I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I taught I taw a puddy tat!

Thursday afternoon I made a run into Cotulla for groceries and mail. I first had to to get the truck out of it's mud hole it was parked in. The ground was fairly dry around the truck, meaning I wasn't sinking to my knees :-) but it was still fairly soft so I was a little apprehensive. I had parked the truck there to get it out of the way of the "roach coach" and it was nice and dry then so I really never noticed (or cared) that the rear wheels were in a small hole and I would have to back out uphill. Now that everything was soft and slippery this turned into a big issue. I tried backing out in 2 wheel drive and the wheels started spinning immediately so I switched to 4X4 and still had to do some rocking back and forth. I was able to back it out but not before slinging mud everywhere. My son in law Ryan would have been proud :-).
Have you ever been sitting all alone and just get the feeling someone is watching you? I was sitting at our table the other night surfing on the computer and got this weird feeling I was being watched. I keep the lights down inside so I can see if anyone is turning into our gate as well as to not disturb Rudee while she is sleeping. Movement outside caught my eye and when I looked out there was a cat standing right outside the window next to our patio looking back in at me. What the heck is a cat doing way out here when the closest house is probably 3 miles away? That is when I realized I was not looking at a house cat but rather a bobcat! I grabbed the camera but it would not focus through the window. The bobcat walked under our 5th wheel so I decided to go outside and see of I could catch a photo of it. By the time I got outside and to the other side of the 5th wheel he/she was way out in the field past our utility trailers. No way to get a photo but pretty cool to see!
The fracking crew have all moved on to another job and the next crew has also finished whatever they were doing and they moved out Friday morning. There is a small crew still working and was told they are "regulating the flow" and sometimes this takes up to two weeks. There are also semi tankers hauling the waste water from the pad and they are in and out every couple of hours but it is a lot quieter around our 5th wheel now :-). I do miss the "roach coach" though :-(. Those guys eat well and it's probably a good thing they moved on or I would have had to go on a diet really soon :-)!
Things are starting to get back into a routine and we know most of the people passing through our gate again. The drilling crew are doing there thing at the back of the property and we are expecting them to be done sometime after the first of the year. We are still deciding if we are going to move to another site with the rig or just stay here for the remainder of time we had planned on working. We like our spot here and moving means tearing down and sitting up again with no guarantee the site will be as nice as this one. Decisions, decisions, I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

TV is not all bad

We have been extremely busy here at the Hinkle Ranch but are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We started noticing a change in the flow of vehicles Tuesday afternoon. I asked one of the fracking crew how the work was going and he told me they were finishing up and would be done by midnight. Sure enough shortly after 11:00 the large diesel engines on the generators were shut down and they started packing up.
Today things have been a zoo with a lot of the fracking equipment moving out. We had quite the traffic jamb with semis and cars heading out as well as several trying to get in.
Several of the vehicles were stuck in the mud near the well so they called in a huge wrecker to pull them out. Needless to say it was quite a show watching the circus leave town. :-)
Tonight a new crew has taken over and they are drilling again to place a large vent pipe for natural gas which will be burned off. I guess we will have a large birthday candle to watch soon :-). They say they have about 1 1/2 days of drilling and then will do the "rig up" so looks like we will remain busy for a while longer.
My Dad always had the opinion that TV will rot your brain. He never had much interest (or patience) to watch any shows. I enjoy the newer reality programs and you never know what little tid bits you pick up. This evening one of the company men came out and asked if I had seen a D-6 delivered. I immediately thought of the show Gold Rush about several guys trying to strike it rich gold mining. One recent episode they were buying a bull dozer to use and wanted a D-7 but could only afford a D-6. They went into great detail of the differences and had lots of footage of both types of dozers. Well it just so happens I checked in a truck pulling a dozer and when he pulled by me I recognized the dozer from watching the show :-). I was able to tell the company man "yes, your D-6 came through and is sitting right over there". How's that for "gate guarding above and beyond the call of duty" :-).
Another show I like is Flying Wild Alaska" about a small airline in Alaska. They fly into the remote areas in all kinds of weather. The scenery is fantastic but the weather is brutal. They were flying a group of rock climbers to a remote rock face and one of the "stars" of the show asked them how they go to the bathroom while climbing. They were very honest with her and said they "just pee out onto space". They did say to be careful of the guys below you and sometimes even above you if there is an updraft. She had to ask the next obvious question though, "what about #2?" again they were very honest and said the same rules apply and referred to it as a "mud falcon". So there you go, TV as a learning tool. Now that is probably something every one of you has wondered about and now we all know the answer. I guess the name "mud falcon" is better than "holy crap" just not as descriptive! :-)
Rudee or I will be making our weekly run into Cotulla for groceries and mail. Hopefully the mud will dry up enough to get the Dakota out without using the 4 wheel drive! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

it's like ...... "puddin"

Still getting off and on (mostly "on") drizzle here at the Hinkle Ranch. We are making the best of it and hoping for it will dry up soon.
I have a pair of "traveling" boots that I keep outside and change into when I have to venture away from the our little island surrounded by mud. I put them on yesterday and headed over to the "roach coach" to grab some dinner for Rudee and I. Good thing it wasn't a sunny day since I forgot my hat, would hate for the glare from my bald head to blind someone :-).
The rain water is just sitting on top of the drive way and mixes with the mud and creates a pool of what looks and feels like chocolate pudding :-).
The vehicles driving through put up a "chocolate fountain" and everything is a mess. Nothing we can do about it so we just have to live with it :-).
The areas not packed down are more like quick sand and if you stand still too long it will grab you and you will sink up to your ankles. The stuff is slick too, walk too fast and you might find yourself looking at the sky!
I was catching some sleep yesterday when Rudee put on her boots for a trip to the Dakota to fetch some water. I have the truck tucked away behind the 5th wheel so it is out of the way but there is about 20' of mud to cross to get to it. This was Rudee's first trip off the "island" and it didn't turn out too well. She was afraid of falling so she took her time and chose her steps as best she could. Every step she took more and more mud clung to her boots making her feet heavier and heavier. She stopped about 1/2 way and that's when the "caliche' monster" got her! Her boot sunk in and when she tried to take another step her foot came out of her boot and to keep from falling she had to take another step. Splat, down went her foot minus her boot. She bent down and had to pull and tug to get her boot unstuck and almost fell over pulling on it. The mud finally let go of her boot with a loud sucking sound and she was free! She decided that a gallon of water was not worth all this and turned around slogging back through the mud. I guess it was all pretty funny to see and some of the crew who were getting their meals got a good show. Rudee said she was laughing so hard at herself that she could hardly walk. I'm sorry I missed it :-).
I overheard one of the "white hats" saying they should be done here no later than Wednesday as long as things go as well as they have been. I doubt it will take them long to pack up and move which should be interesting to watch. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

no drought no mo!

To say we have been busy is an understatement. We have averaged over 300 vehicles passing back and forth each day which is over double the amount of our busiest days up to now. The fracking crews arrival can best be described as a 3 ring circus! One big advantage is they have their own food truck and he is parked right across the road from us :-).
The head chef came over and introduced himself to us. He invited us to come over and pick up our meals whenever we wanted something. He is also a member of the Masonic Lodge so we have something in common. Friday afternoon we were treated to rib eye steaks, baked potato and salad!
The shift change occurs around 5am and most of the crew arrives by shuttle bus from their motel in Loredo. The gate is really busy between 5 and 7 with other contractors crews and supervisors arriving. Seems like there is always a steady stream of trucks going in and out as well as the traffic for the drilling rig on the back pad.
The crews take their meal breaks in shifts. The first to eat are what Rudee and I call the "grey ghosts" followed by the "blue birds" and then the "red heads". I guess each contracting company has different colored coveralls, or maybe the color varies by job performed. I haven't figured it out quite yet and hate to ask to many "rookie" questions :-). One thing I'm sure of though, they all listen to the guys in the white hard hats. This group was eating dinner and as soon as the "white hat" said it's time, they all followed him back to work.
This morning (Saturday) the rains came and the temperature dropped and it stayed cold and wet all day. Working as a gate guard is really miserable in the rain. Everything is a mucky mess :-(. We have not ventured too far off the patio mat all day.
I did catch another mouse in the trap I have set up in the basement storage area. That makes two for the 6 weeks we have been here. Hopefully that will be the last of them but somehow I think that is wishful thinking :-).
Tomorrow looks to be a carbon copy of today. The weather forecast is for rain and cool temperatures in the middle 50's but then warm up next week. Maybe things will dry up quick around here :-) I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 9, 2011

trucks, trucks and more trucks

We were warned that when the fracking starts the gate gets really busy and so far that has held true. We had several semi loads of equipment delivered to the front pad as well as additional trailers for offices and living space.
This was in addition to the activity on the back pad where they raised the rig back up and are preparing to start drilling again. We have people running in and out like crazy!
I did manage to sneak away to the post office and grocery. Monday was pay day and I wanted to get the check out of the PO Box and into the bank :-). Since we just stocked up on staples on the way back from San Antonio the grocery run was a light one this week. I did have quite a few water jugs to fill up though.
Looks like the weather may be warming up some and I can probably leave the water hooked up tonight. The temperature here dropped down into the 20's the last two nights and without unhooking and draining the hose our water line would have frozen. I have been heating the 5th wheel with our small electric heaters which do a decent job until the temperatures drop into the lower 30's and then they tend to struggle keeping it comfortable so we have to run the propane furnace some to help out.
A reader left a comment regarding that the River Walk in San Antonio was not really a river so I did a little more reading on it's history: http://www.thesanantonioriverwalk.com/history/history-of-the-river-walk/
Interesting reading and, in my opinion, the River Walk is a must see when in the area. We sure did enjoy the time we spent there.
Not a lot of nap time going on overnight :-(.
When I got back to the 5th wheel from my run into town there were 24 semi tank trucks lined up on the road waiting to get into the gate. They are being staged on the side of the road until the crew is ready to unload them at the fracking site. They started waving 8-10 of them in at a time shortly after dark. The unloading is taking about 2 hours per truck and now (1:30 am) they are down to just 3 more waiting to get in.
I'm not sure how long the fracking process takes and what the next process will be but I'll keep you posted :-) !

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

break is over, back to work

I was able to catch a couple of short naps overnight between "dings" of our alarm bell. I'm already wishing I was back in San Antonio enjoying time off :-). I guess I'm starting to get a case of "hitch itch".
The gate started getting really busy around 6am and by 8am I had already filled the first page, it's gonna be a busy day!
They now have crews at both pads and should be raising the rig at the back pad Wednesday or Thursday. I am expecting them to start drilling maybe as early as this week end and we keep hearing that the fracking crew should be here and start their work Wednesday as well. The crew on the front pad has been working at a fever pitch to prepare for the fracking by spreading truck load after truck load of caliche. There have also moved travel trailers into place to be used as housing as well as some lighting units. Tomorrow looks like it will be another busy day!
The weatherman is warning us of a hard freeze tonight so I disconnected the water hose and turned off the water pump from our large water tank. We will use our on board tank for morning showers. I should be able to hook things back up tomorrow after it warms up again. The temperatures are supposed to drop into the 20's overnight. Brrrrr! I honestly thought South Texas would be warmer :-). I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day off!

The gate was pretty quiet Saturday night and I got some "quality nap time". There was a flurry of activity just after dawn when all the workers involved in moving the rig arrived and then it slowed down again.
We had our bag packed and were anxious to leave so once it slowed down we battened down the hatches, laid the stop sign down, put the "closed" sign on the door of the 5th wheel and headed for San Antonio.
The drive took us about 1 1/2 hours and the temperature did nothing but drop the entire way. We started out at 67 and it quickly dropped into the upper 40's. We ran through several showers and it was very gray and overcast but nothing was going to spoil our fun!
Rudee had taken care of the hotel and found a great deal on line at Hotel Contessa right on the river walk. For those that are not familiar, the River Walk is a unique park like setting. The river winds through the downtown section of San Antonio and there are sidewalks lining both sides. They have created a very unique shopping and dining area.
We checked into the motel and our room, well really it was a suite (COOL!), was ready and waiting. The hotel was gorgeous and with Rudee's shopping skills it cost less than the Holiday Inn Express :-)
Here is the view from our 12th floor room.
We decided to walk to the Alamo which was only a few blocks away. Taking the river walk, which is actually below street level, we were able to get fairly close without having to even think about traffic or crosswalks.
We toured the Alamo where several Texans made a stand against overwhelming odds against General Santa Ana and the Mexican Army. They were over ran and most were killed including, probably the most famous, Davey Crocket and Jim Bowey.
There is a large shopping mall near the Alamo and we spent some time browsing through the stores just trying to get warm :-).
Once we were warmed back up, thank you Starbuck's :-), we headed back down the stairs to the River Walk and did some more exploring. I could not get over how we were walking through a downtown urban area but, since you are below street level, you really don't hear any traffic or typical "city" noises. The walk is just beautiful and since it was a cold Sunday there were not too many people out. There are archways where you can cross from one side of the river to the other and stairways to access the streets above.
We explored for a couple of hours and finally made it back to our Hotel for a short rest before we headed for dinner.
We decided on Landry's Seafood but it was not an easy decision. You can find everything from sports bars to fine dining on the River Walk and deciding where to go can be a dilemma. None of the restaurants were crowded since the weather was not the greatest, we wished it was just a little warmer because most of the restaurants have outdoor seating with a view of the river and the people strolling by. I do love to "people watch" :-)
Our meal was very good, we shared fried shrimp, fries, salad and Crab bisque soup. We sat inside but did have a table with a view of the river :-).
I had noticed that most of the trees lining the river were wrapped with lights and by the time we finished eating the sun had set and the lights were on. Beautiful!
We took our time walking home and just enjoyed each others company and our surroundings.
We called it a night and turned in fairly early. No bells tonight, ahhhhhh! I actually got to sleep through the night uninterrupted. I slept for 10 hours straight!
This morning we had breakfast at the Hotel and checked out. I took a different route home so we could stop by the Super Wal Mart in Pleasonton on way home. I got the oil changed in the Dakota while we stocked up on supplies. Rudee likes to keep our pantry (AKA the sleeper in the Freightliner) fairly well stocked with staples and we were getting low.
Back at the 5th wheel the front pad was deserted and everything had been moved to the back. Wow, these guys had been busy yesterday! They tell us the fracking crew may arrive as early as Wednesday so we may getting really busy for awhile. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

feeding the troops

Yesterday morning the fog rolled in just before dawn. I talked to one of the drivers coming in and he said it wasn't foggy 1 mile up the road and seemed to be just around our little area here, strange.
The fog did burn off after the sun came up so it did not last too long and it wasn't long before the sky clouded over and it looked like it would rain at any minute. The rain held off until late in the afternoon and we had a couple of periods of showers roll through. We got enough rain to hold down the dust that will be stirred up by the heavy trucks we expect to start arriving to move the rig :-).
Rudee decided to do some cooking for the guys working at the rig. She made a huge batch of her homemade Sloppy Joe's along with homemade mac & cheese. She took both big pans back to the company man's trailer around 4:00pm so it would be ready for the guys coming off shift. We have not heard anything from them so hope they enjoyed it.
The rig will be moved on Sunday if all goes according to plan. The set up at the other pad should not take as long since they are not taking the rig apart. When the rig arrived here the first of November it took a couple of days before they raised it to vertical and another couple of days to start drilling. I'm looking forward to the drilling to start again because the gate traffic is a lot more predictable. Right now we have subcontractors coming and going all hours of the day and night doing all sorts of things. Last night the big emergency was a flat tire on the "super sucker", whatever that is. Around midnight the tire guy arrived and after an hour or so got the "super sucker" sucking again :-).
Most of the workers here are content to do their shift and settle down for a meal and then to bed. They do this for a 6 days and on the 7th they leave after their work day for a week off. There is always one or two who do a lot of running in and out and you can pretty much set your watch by them. I don't know if they are going into town to eat or party or ?? bit they can't seem to be away from town too long because they rarely miss a day. One of these folks left yesterday saying he would not be back for at least 2 weeks, sure enough another contractor moved in and he has been wearing us out running in and out :-). I guess it's not all bad though because we quickly learn their names and memorize their license plate numbers :-).
Should have a lot more activity at the rig today as they continue the move. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 2, 2011

prepping for a move

A crew and heavy equipment arrived early Thursday morning. Their mission was to bust through the large earthen berm that surrounds the well pad so an access road can be made to move the rig. They worked all morning with a bulldozer and road grader as semi after semi hauled in loads of caliche for the road bed. They finished their project shortly before dark.
Needless to say it was a busy day at the gate with several different companies arriving to perform a variety of jobs. Some were doing things to the casings, others were inspectors and still others were tank cleaners. I don't understand all the process' or what will happen next but with the flurry of activity my guess would be the rig will be coming down soon. Melissa, a salesman for the company we work for, Gate Guard Services, stopped in to meet with the company man. On her way put she told us that the fracking crew should be here next week for this well. I'm not sure what to believe on that, yesterday they said they will not do fracking until the other well is finished but now we get this information. I guess we'll just take it as it comes. One thing will be nice though, once they start fracking the daily pay increases since there will be two active pads on this gate. :-)
Rudee made a run into Cotulla to pick up our mail, pay our bills and restock our pantry. She even made a stop at Wendy's for our weekly fast food fix. :-)
Not much else to report from the gate. We are still hopeful that we can take off Sunday and return Monday for a much needed break. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December already!

Seems like the older I get the quicker time flies. My Dad, rest his soul, warned me about that a long time ago. Guess he was smarter than I gave him credit for in my younger days :-)
I'm sure my kids are in tune to how wise I am as I approach my senior years (sarcasm intended) LOL.
Rudee and I were talking about the holidays yesterday. Neither of us have gotten in the "holiday spirit" yet. We don't have a Christmas tree but do have a few smaller decorations and a really pretty hand painted antique manger scene that we display. I guess we will be decorating soon and maybe that help ring in the holidays. Don't get me wrong, we are not depressed, or homesick, it is more of a "tunnel vision" thing. We are concentrating on making money right now and looking forward to our time off between jobs. We will miss celebrating Christmas with all of our family, Christmas Eve at the in-laws has been an annual gathering and has grown into quite a production with several generations represented.
Tomorrow is the annual Christmas party for our Goldwing chapter. This is the first one we have missed in 21 years and will be thinking of all our friends while they gather to celebrate. We are a little sad to miss those times but will not miss the snow and bitter cold that is bound to arrive soon.
We had another fairly busy day at the gate as the cement trucks and pumps began arriving as well as crews to prepare the back pad for the rig. The well casings are still going in and then they will put a large valve assembly on the pipe before lowering and moving the rig. Henry, the company man, brought us a copy of guidelines for facial hair for the rig workers. He wanted us to remind the incoming workers that no long facial hair is allowed and if they have any questions to direct them to him. Mustaches are OK as long as they are shorter, can be bigger than Hitler's but shorter than Fu Man Chu's :-). They do not allow chin hair at all and Elvis sideburns are out too. I know of at least two occasions where workers have been sent to Cotulla for shaving supplies shortly after coming through the gate. He does not want us to be the "hair police" but just show them the guidelines if we see they are not in compliance and he will do the enforcement if needed.
One of the salesman that come to call her at the rig gave us some Boudain which is a Cajun sausage. He told Rudee how to prepare it so she fixed some for me for supper last night. She also made a pot of ham and beans since she wasn't sure if I would like the Boudain. The sausage comes prepackaged with two large sausages per pack. These were pork w/ Jalapeno' spices. They had a kick to them bit were very good! I think we will be looking for some more of these! I hear they make them from shrimp, crawdad and other cuts of meat as well.
Only 3 more days until a day off! Whoo Hoo! We are both looking forward to the time off even if it is only 24 hours. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the pace picks up

Now that the drilling has been completed there seems to be a million things going on at once here at the well site.
We were checking people in and out all day at a regular rate and in between all that they were moving large loads of pipe to the rear pad. I lost count of how many loads the 2 flat bed semi trucks made down the access road. They worked until dark when the trucks left for the night. I have a feeling they will be back again at first light to finish the job.
The "casing crew" came in last night. Unfortunantly they spaced themselves about 45 minutes apart starting about 1 am so no nap time for me :-). They will be cementing the well casing in place so we are expecting the cement trucks to start making their runs in and out sometime today.
Evan from Gate Guard Services arrived yesterday morning in place of Hunter. He had a new water pump for us and it only took him a few minutes to remove the old one and install the new one. Hooray, we have water again :-) !
We got a call from our son back in Indiana and they were having the first big snow of the season. He said they already had at least 3" on the ground and it was still snowing. I always hated the first snow because it meant a lot of crashes on the roads. I guess people just forget how to drive on slick roads, assuming they knew how in the first place :-). We called our daughter who works in Indianapolis and checked on her. She said her normal 45 minute drive home took her twice as long and there were a lot of people that had slid off the road. She took her time and made it home safely. Hopefully they will have the roads cleared for her morning commute.
Looks like it will be a busy couple of weeks here at the gate until they get the rig moved. Hopefully once they start drilling again things will settle back down, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 28, 2011

drilling is done

Several of the crew left late this afternoon saying they may not be back. They all worked for one of the contractors and said the drilling is complete and they are moving on to other rigs. There is still a chance they could get assigned back here once the rig moves.
Yes, I said back here! Henry, the company man, showed up at our door and said they are going to drill the back pad and will be moving the rig later this week. Should be really interesting because he said they are not going to disassemble it. They will lower it onto two semi trucks, one facing east and the other facing west, and move it that way. I sure would hate to be the truck that has to go backwards all the way.
He said they will tear down a large portion of the fence so they can make the turn without doing too much maneuvering. This is the same fence they just finished building a couple of weeks ago!
The new well will probably just sit for a couple of months with little to no activity since the next stage would be to fracture the well. This process know as "fracking" actually fractures the rock surrounding the well pipe which allows the oil and gas to flow better. Since they are drilling another well in close proximity Henry does not think the fracking will start until the other well is drilled because one could interfere with the other.
Bottom line is we are staying put here until they finish drilling on the other pad and then will move with the rig to the next site. Well I guess we will move as long as they still want us :-).
We are having a problem with our fresh water system. I hooked everything back up this morning and kept getting leaks. The end of the hose provided by the company had some wear on the threads so I cut it off and used a repair kit to replace the end. This solved the problem so I went to bed. Turns out the end started leaking and Rudee had to shut the water off until I got up. Once I was up and showered (using the on board water) I replaced their hose with one of my own and it worked fine for a little while then would not flow. I tried different things but it would flow for a few minutes and then it would slow to a trickle. I checked their pump which is mounted inside the generator cabinet and it was almost too hot to touch. Rudee called Hunter, who services our equipment, and told him about our troubles. He said he will bring us another pump and hose first thing in the morning.
I guess this is another good reason to make sure we keep the tank on our 5th wheel full.
Henry said we would be able to take a day off while the rig is being moved and set up. He said Sunday and Monday would be the best days so we went ahead and made some plans. We will drive to San Antonio early Sunday afternoon, see some of the sites, spend the night and be back at the gate before dark on Monday. Should be a fun time and a welcome break. I'll keep you posted.

turn the heat back on!

Sunday was as expected, slow all day until after dark when the traffic picked up and the gate was pretty steady for the next several hours.
I posted that I was wondering why they would not just move the rig to the pad in the back of the property. Well Henry, the company man, told me yesterday that they are probably going to do just that. He said they received the permits to drill on pad C but thought that pad was "B" and there was another on somewhere else on the property. He took off in his Jeep looking for "pad C". Once he returned he was as confused as we are. He said the pad in back has 4 holes in it that should not be there and he did not find any other pads. At this point I don't know what to think and will just "go with the flow" :-)
If they do decide to drill the back pad, this would mean 2 active well sites on our gate and we should receive additional pay. I'm not sure how that works but will be checking it out with our supervisor once the move is finalized. I felt like the first couple of weeks here we should have been receiving a higher rate due to the construction on the back pad. At least 1/3 of our gate traffic was the construction crews not associated with our rig.
Henry did say they are with in 1000' of finishing this well. I'm assuming they will be making a decision fairly quickly on where the rig goes next.
The night crew is leaving for their week off as I write this. I have talked to a couple of them and they tell me the company man is telling them to report to the new site that is closer to Cotulla. The bad thing is no one seems to know where this site is. The workers say they will just call next week end and get directions.
The cold weather arrived as expected. I disconnected the water hose and drained it to keep it from freezing. The temps are supposed to be above freezing the rest of the week so I will re-connect it after it warms up some.
I did turn the furnace on to help us stay warm and of course one of our tanks of propane ran dry. The 5er is equipped with an automatic switch that changes the flow from one tank to another so you do not run dry. I have a monitor hooked up to the LP tank regulator that flashes a light when one tank runs dry and it switches to the full tank http://www.shoprvparts.com/product.do?no=17493F&WT.mc_id=gb1&utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=productfeed&utm_campaign=googleshopping
I also carry an extra 30lb tank on the semi and another 20lb tank for the grille so I have plenty of LP storage :-).
We do have several electric heaters and we use those the majority of the time but I do run the furnace (on a low setting) when it drops below freezing because our 5th wheel has a vent in the underbelly to keep the pipes from freezing. The weatherman says the lows will be in the 30's for the next couple of days but they are not predicted to drop below the freezing mark again :-).
I am expecting a busy week here at the gate with a lot of "tear down" activity and big trucks coming in and out. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

gotta move!

Yesterday (Saturday) I decided I needed to do more than just sit on my rear end in between checking in the few vehicles coming through our gate now. My answer was to take a long "power" walk. There is a long access road that goes beside the blacktop road and ends at another pad on the other side of the ranch so that was my destination. I grabbed my walking stick and snake "persuader" :-) and headed out. The walk back to the pad is only about a 1/2 mile and there is also a reservoir they built between the two pads. Both the reservoir and the pad are fenced and gated so I didn't venture inside. When we first arrived at the gate there was a lot of work going on back here and that accounted for a large portion of the traffic at our gate. The work is completed now and I am assuming will be quiet until they move a drill rig onto the pad to start a well. I figured our rig would just move back once they were done on the front pad but that does not seem to be the case. I'm still trying to figure all this drilling stuff out :-)
The walk back to the 5th wheel was into a fairly brisk wind and I got a little bit of a work out. I just need to keep this up to keep my girlish figure :-)
Friday while driving to the store I passed a wild hog that had been struck and killed on the highway. This things was BIG! I have watched the show on TV where they hunt wild hogs here in Texas and the majority of them on the show are not even close to the size of this one and it was laying down! I took a picture of it to show Rudee but I'll spare you guys the gore. One thing for sure, I would hate to run into that guy in the middle of the night (or even in daylight!) out here in the middle of nowhere!
They are still calling for a decent freeze tonight so later today I will disconnect and drain our water hose. We will just use our on board tank for tonight and until it warms up a little tomorrow. The days are supposed to be mild but each night this week they are predicting lows into the 30's except tonight when it will drop into the 20's. I guess it's time to dust the cob webs off the furnace :-). I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

black Friday

Rudee used to take part in the shopping frenzy known as "black Friday". I don't like fighting crowds or standing in long lines so I was very happy to stay home :-). She would get up in the wee hours of the morning in order to get to the stores and wait in line for the doors to open, sometimes as early as 5am. This year several store chains are opening at midnight and some even earlier than that so they can get a jump on the competition.
This year Rudee would have to be content spending the day at home with me.
I did venture out yesterday afternoon and drove to Cotulla to pick up our mail and stock up on some groceries. I'm happy to report there was no long lines, pushing, shoving, or fighting for deals at the Super S grocery store :-).
Hard to believe some of the news stories of Black Friday around the country. What are these people thinking?! One woman was mad because, even after she cut in line to get a video game system, she still felt she was not close enough so pulled out her pepper spray and attacked those in front of her to clear the way. I have to wonder how long she stood there trying to count the number of people divided by the number of games. I bet she had both her shoes and socks off trying to "cypher" :-).
A New York TV station was reporting that a crowd had lined up outside a store waiting for it to open at midnight, bad thing was they were not opening until 6am. I guess this was not acceptable to the crowd who broke down the doors and looted the store before police could arrive.
It's the same every year, people acting like animals just to get a good deal on some electronic gadget or toy, pitiful.
The gate was fairly quiet again until just after dark when there was a flurry of activity coming in. Some kind of pump on the rig had failed and its replacement arrived shortly after 8pm. This was followed by a crew to install it and then a large crane with escort vehicles arrived to hoist it. They worked into the night to prepare it and then lift it onto the rig. They started drifting back out the gate around 1am and they were finally all gone shortly after 3am. Needless to say it was a long night for me.
The weatherman is still saying we are in for a cool down and there is a "freeze watch" for this area tomorrow night. We have a full tank of water on board and I will disconnect our water supply line and use this if the temps get down too low. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 25, 2011

free food!

We had a nice, slow Thanksgiving Day here in the giggle weeds of Texas. Around 1pm the new company man, Henry, drove out and let us know that the food would be here soon. Rudee asked him lots of questions about the move coming up. He does not have a firm commitment on the location yet but says it will not be too far and is pretty certain it will be closer to Cotulla. He said tear down will be starting soon and they will know more about the location by the first of the week. She also asked about us working out a day or two off between gates and he seemed to think it would not be a problem, cool!
The caterer arrived shortly after Henry went back to the rig. We checked them in and they gave us a whole pumpkin pie before driving back to the housing units. About an hour later Brad, our safety man, brought us out 2 styrofoam containers full of food and the feast was on!
We each had ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a roll, cranberry sauce, more pumpkin pie and a container with gravy. The food was all cold so we had to warm it up before digging in.
The food was tasty but a little disappointing. The turkey and ham was sliced deli style meat, not fresh cooked. The whole meal was more like "cafeteria" food and not what we would call a "catered meal". I missed my Mother-in-laws noodles, Rudee's stuffing and my sister-in-law's home made rolls. The price was right though, and we enjoyed the variety :-).
The rest of the day was spent watching TV and connecting with family and friends.
The past few nights I have not had any traffic at the gate so I skipped the hide-a-way bed tonight and headed for our comfy bed hoping for another slow night. Well it was not to be :-(. I had a car come in at 3am and another at 5am that had to be checked in ...... well poo! I guess that's just another routine day in the life of a gate guard though :-).
We have a heavy fog hanging around this morning but it should burn off pretty quick once the sun rises. Supposed to be another 80 degree day here but they are predicting a big cool down for the week end it may even dip below freezing :-O ! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pipe dreams?

The night shift has been slow lately, which is great for me, I get to sleep a little :-)
Monday morning a little before 6am a group of semi trucks hauling pipe showed up at the gate. There were four in the first group and as one left after unloading another arrived to take it's place. There were at least 6 loads of pipe delivered before 10am.
Earl, the company man, stopped in and told us to turn away any salesman since they would be unloading and moving pipe all day and were too busy for sales calls. He said they have reached their mark in drilling and were "starting the turn" meaning they were drilling more horizontal rather than vertical. He told me the casing pipe would start going in and be cemented into place probably this week end.
This marks the beginning of the end for the drill rig, or so I am told. When we first arrived they said they expected to be here 30 days. We arrived on the 31st and the rig arrived 4 days later so end of next week would be 30 days for them, right on schedule.
Tuesday was another routine day here at the gate. We did have some sales calls and even got 2 fresh Tacos delivered by one of the companies. I had one for lunch after I got up from a nap and it was very good. I'm not sure what cut of beef is in it, could be tongue or lips, all I know it was very tasty :-).
Later in the day Earl came back out to the gate and stopped to talk for awhile. He was off for the next 2 weeks and said when he saw us again we would be at the new location. I made sure they wanted us to follow them and he said they absolutely did and really appreciated all we were doing. This made me feel good and I am honored to be asked to follow the rig. He did not know where the new location was exactly, said it would be in this general area and we would be moving in approximately 10 days.
There will still need to be a gate guard at this site so when we move someone else will move in here to take our place.
We are both a little nervous about the move. You never know what the next gate will be like. This one is wide open with a view of the main road which Rudee likes. There are cattle guards at the gate so you can leave it open 24/7 whereas with out a cattle guard the gate would have to be opened and shut with every vehicle. The downside here is the proximity to the well pad. We are literally right on top of the action here and it can get pretty noisy.
I guess each site has it's own "personality" and the best we can hope for is a large level pad and enough room that we can sit on our patio without the semi trucks running over our toes :-). If I get enough early warning on the new location I'll try and do some reconnaissance in the Dakota before moving the entire circus train. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 21, 2011

new faces

Sunday was another slow day here at the Hinkle gate but as predicted things picked up shortly after 6pm. The shift coming off duty waisted no time throwing their weeks worth of laundry and whatever food they had left into their cars and headed home. We wished them all "Happy Thanksgiving, see ya next week".
The new day shift crew started arriving later in the evening to begin their week long stay here at the rig. There will be another mass rush shortly after 6am when this new day crew relieves the night shift and they head home.
Monday morning the wind started blowing with a vengeance. Rudee and I had to put some more weights on the outdoor carpet so it wouldn't blow away. We gave up trying to keep the stop sign from being blown over :-).
Hunter from Gate Guard Services arrived in the middle of the afternoon to change the oil on our generator. This takes him about 20 minutes and it sure got warm in the 5th wheel with the a/c shut down. Seems like it took it several hours to cool it back down to the point it was comfortable again, of course using the a/c in Novenber is a lot better than having to run the furnace like we had to do last year at this time :-)
Now that we have all new faces in the bunkhouse I am hoping for another quiet night so I can get some sleep :-). I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wally World

As predicted I had a slow night Friday. There were a few of the crew heading into town for some food and fun but, happily, they all arrived back at the gate before 11:00pm and the gate was quiet the rest of the night :-)
Saturday morning I drove the 70 miles to Pleasonton, Texas to the Walmart Supercenter. Rudee had made up a list of items and I had a few myself so it took me about an hour of shopping. The store was not too crowded since it was still early but, typical Walmart, they only had a few cash registers open and all of them had a long line :-(
I heard a rumor that the Walmart in Pearsall Texas is a supercenter as well and is about 1/2 the distance to Pleasonton so I'll have to check to see if that's true. That would shave off some of the windshield time.
I filled the truck up before leaving Walmart taking advantage of their .10 off oer gallon by using a shopping card. I paid $3.04 per gallon which is the cheapest gas I have seen in a long time.
Rudee spent the morning cleaning the 5th wheel and it looked great! Once we leave here I will need to do a major cleaning on the outside so it looks as good as the inside :-)
Saturday was the slowest day at the gate we have seen so far. By Saturday night we only had 1/2 of a page filled out. We do have to turn some people away that show up wanting to come in. One guy was looking for work and then changed his mind and said he just wanted to see of there was any scrap metal he could haul away. The boss man has some strict guidelines in these situations so we are forced to turn these people away. I did tell the guy that if he did indeed have a service to provide he could come back on Tuesday or Thursday which is "salesman" days and talk to the company man then, maybe he'll be back.
Sunday is shift change so we'll have a bunch of the crew leaving in the afternoon and another crew coming in. The arriving workers either show up late Sunday night or early Monday morning. One thing for sure though, the ones leaving waste no time heading out. They have been here a full week and are ready to get back home to their families for their week off, can't say that I blame them :-) I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another week down

Yesterdays post was number 300, wow time sure does fly. I have enjoyed writing the blog, not sure why but I guess it is "therapeutic" for me :-).
I started writing as soon as we moved into the 5th wheel to document our trials and tribulations as we worked towards early retirement. Sometimes it is not easy to find things to write about. I'm sure those that have read for awhile got real tired of hearing the "got up, went to work and came home" stories :-).
I also went through a slow period where I only updated the blog every week just because nothing was going on that was "blog worthy". Well that seems to be behind me for now because "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto"!
Rudee decided she wanted to make the run into town for mail and groceries. She has not left the Ranch since we got here almost 3 weeks ago and it was time for her to get some fresh air :-).
We are getting in the habit of starting a shopping list each week and adding to it as we find things we want or need during the week. This helps us make the most of our trips since the distance makes "running into town" a major trip :-)
The gate was a little slower than normal today. We filled in one full page and barely started a second one when the day ended. I like slow days because they usually mean slow nights too :-).
They have pretty sunsets here in Texas!
They have pretty sunsets in Indiana too, just never slowed down enough to really notice them like I should have :-(
I will make our first Wal Mart run tomorrow since arriving here. The nearest super center is about 70 miles one way. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, November 18, 2011

stop means STOP!

Thursday was back to our routine here at the Hinkle Ranch, no more fires. There was some type of fire down the little county road next to us. The fire truck went by about 4pm with its lights flashing but we could not see any smoke and never saw them return so not sure what was happening.
The fire department was from Cotulla and I guess the economy prior to this oil boom was not good at this small community. Their truck was homemade using a large flatbed truck and strapping a big water tank on its back with a small pump hooked to it. I didn't see any ladders, hose or axes that are common on most fire engines. Maybe with the extra tax money coming in they will be able to afford some newer equipment for their volunteers.
We have had a few instances lately of workers running through the gate. The boss man wants us to keep the gate itself open 24/7. There is a cattle guard to keep the livestock in so the only risk is "people" getting by us. This has not really been a problem and 99% of them are courteous, stopping and waiting for us to write down their information. Tuesday evening I chased down one fellow who said he was just "turning around" and then proceeded to park out behind the rig and got out of his truck. I went back in the Dakota and made him drive back out to the gate and register. He was from a company hired by the rig so if he tries that trick again I will let the company man know and he will not be allowed on the property anymore.
Wednesday evening I had one of the rig workers blow by us, didn't even slow down. I started walking towards where he was parked and he got in his truck again and came back to the gate and apologized, said he was in a hurry and wasn't thinking.
Then last night one of the workers left and just did a "California stop" at the sign. By the time I opened the door he was pulling away and blasting out the gate. I was able, with Rudee's help, to read his license plate and we checked him out that way. This morning he came back through at 4am and did the same thing! This time I walked back to where he was parking and told him if he blew through the gate again I would be turning his name into the company man! I'm sure that is not a discussion he would want to be having with the boss.
I don't know what they are thinking, maybe prior gate guards have let this kind of stuff slide but not on our watch! More than likely it is just a matter of seeing how much they can get away with. Well I have raised two kids and was a cop most of my life, I have seen the tricks and heard the stories so don't think you are going to get one over on me :-). I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fire!!

The week is moving pretty fast here in the Texas oil fields. The rain predicted for Monday did not arrive until just before dawn Tuesday when we had a thunderstorm move through the area. The rain turned our little piece of the world here a mucky mess. The Caliche stone/gravel mix they use here does not soak up any water at all. The rain water just sits on top or runs in little rivers to the nearest low spot. When you have to walk through the muck it sticks to your shoes like wet cement and then dries just as hard. Makes working the gate a little tougher.
We are both getting into a routine and have had a little boredom set in at times. Today was not one of those routine, semi boring days :-).
I was able to sleep almost the entire night undisturbed so I stayed up all morning this morning. I took advantage of the time and replaced the clearance lamps on the back of the semi. There are three of them on the back that were all damaged when we had the blow out last month in Florida. While doing that I started our portable generator and plugged in the block heater for the truck. They say to run the generator under load for 30 minutes at least once per month. The block heater draws quite a few amps and provides a good "load" for the genny.
I finished that up just in time to greet the "honey wagon" who was leaving after pumping out all the black tanks from the housing units. Talking to the driver confirmed he had another trip to make and he would pump our tank out when he returned later today. As he was leaving I noticed a compartment door on his truck was open and I was able to get him stopped and the door closed before he pulled away from the gate.
When I turned around after closing the door I saw this
Yikes, Fire! I yelled at Rudee to come outside and told her to call 911. The fire was right next to the highway and as black as the smoke was it had to be some type of petroleum fire. My first thought was that a tanker truck carrying crude oil had crashed and was burning. Rudee gave the 911 dispatcher our location and then called the company man to let him know about the fire. I hopped in the Dakota and drove down to see if I could help. Turns out the fire was in a pit next to a storage facility. There was no real danger that I could see since it was confined to the pit and all the workers were across the road at a gathering point. I did drive back to a nearby well so I could check on the gate guards there. They were doing fine so I headed back to the 5th wheel.
The Fire Dept arrived about 20 minutes later (told you we were in the boonies!) and the smoke soon disappeared. Whew, that's enough excitement for our day.
Earl, the "company man" stopped by to talk with us after the fire. He invited us to have dinner with the crew on Thanksgiving. They are have a catered meal brought in, sounds good count us in! He also mentioned that he would like us to follow the rig when they move to another site. I guess not every gate guard is asked to do this and we feel privileged that we were asked. Guess it means they like the way we are doing things. This gate will need guarded for awhile and we could probably stay here for several months but I think a change of scenery might break up the monotony and we really like "our" crew so we are faced with a decision, do we stay or do we go? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 14, 2011

gate guarding at the Hinkle Ranch

We have pretty well settled into a routine here in the giggle weeds of Texas. Sundays are typically the slowest day of the week the busiest time on Sunday is shift change. Once the workers end their shift they make a mad dash for the exit and the gate gets pretty busy for about 30 minutes.
Sunday night I had a few of the next crew checking in but most arrive just before dawn. I was able to get a few hours of sleep though :-)
Since Friday was a federal holiday I drove into town today to pick up our mail that was forwarded to us from the UPS Store in Brownsburg. So far we are happy with the way things are working with the mail and the folks here at the Cotulla post office have been super friendly and helpful.
While in town I mailed some bills and made a grocery run. You might remember I told you about the Pizza Hut semi trailer restaurant that is set up in the parking lot of the grocery store. Well they had the window open so I ordered a pizza to take back for supper. They offered the same deals that a "normal" Pizza Hut offers and after ordering I had time to run into the grocery while the pizza baked :-)
I picked up the few items on my list, paid for them and picked up the pizza and headed home. Rudee was waiting for me when I got back and we enjoyed our Pizza Hut treat :-)
I have to admit it was tough smelling that pizza on the long drive home.
The weather has been pretty warm here. We have had the a/c running overtime and have even had the second air conditioner on during the warmest part of the day. I guess it doesn't help that we are running in and out all day letting the cold air out :-(
The weatherman is predicting rain and maybe some storms tonight. They could sure use it around here but it makes life at the gate just that much harder. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

busy night

Friday night was a little rough. I had less than an hour of sleep when I usually get 5-6 hours. The gate was not overly busy but the traffic was spread out to the point I was up about every 45 minutes so sleeping consisted of small cat naps between bell dings.
The drilling was at a point where they put in well casing and had a crew in to cement the casing into place. I read on the internet that this could take place several times before the finish drilling.
Friday morning Rudee said her knee was 90% better. She does have a bruise but we both feel fortunate given the circumstances.
There are several drilling operations going on in this area. Just southwest of our site is another well where they have a huge chimney burning off natural gas. The flame lights up the sky at night.
The gate was fairly steady today with a large construction crew working on the reservoir at the rear of the property. They are spreading out large sheets of plastic to make the reservoir water tight. The owner of the property, his son and daughter were each in and out several times. They are not too happy with the way the reservoir is being completed and were taking pictures and talking to the higher ups.
Sundays are typically slow in the gate guard business and I am hoping this turns out to be true for tonight and tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fast food fix :-)

The gate was quiet last night between 11:30pm and 4:45am so I got a little bit of sleep :-). The plan for today was for me to sleep awhile and then go into town to run some errands.
Rudee was up by 7:30 so I made us some breakfast, bacon and jelly sandwich on toast, ummm good. I was able to get the TV working, seems like there was a coating of frost on the satellite antenna case. I cleaned it off with a towel and the dish locked onto the signal pretty quickly. I'm not sure how to prevent this in the future. Any ideas?
I crawled into bed around 9:00 and fell asleep pretty quickly. We have the windows pretty well blacked out in the bedroom and I use ear plugs so I can sleep peacefully. A little after 10:00 Rudee woke me up shouting that she needed my help. My first thought was there was a snake and she had found it :-O
Turns out she was stepping outside and missed the last step falling hard onto her left knee. She was back up but hurting pretty good. I checked her knee and got her an ice pack and she spent the rest of the day on the couch. Looks like she will have a pretty large bruise and will be stiff and sore for a few days but we don't think it is anything more serious.
I headed into town around 3:00pm and stopped at the post office to pick up our mail. I was able to get to our P.O. Box even though the main part of the building was closed for Veterans Day.
I got my first paycheck :-) and promptly mailed it off to the back to be deposited into our account. Feels good to have some more $$ coming in. I have a small pension and we get a monthly check for the rental property down in Florida but we still need a little more to make ends meet.
I also made stops at the hardware store, gas station and grocery store. Before leaving town I picked up our supper at Mc Donalds (for the fries) and Wendy's (for the sandwiches). The whole trip took me a little over 2 hours and I was able to cross off everything on my "honey do" list :-)
We bought 20 gallon jugs of water for drinking and cooking before arriving at the gate. Each trip to town I take the empties and refill them. There is a kiosk at the grocery where you can refill your bottles for .25 cents per gallon or $1 for the larger 5 gallon containers. We both drink a lot of ice tea so we go through a lot of water. This trip I refilled 11 gallon jugs so we are good to go until I get another list :-)
Hopefully it will be an uneventful night on the gate. I could use the some sleep. I'll keep you posted.

taste of winter

The temps dropped like a rock as soon as the sun went down Thursday evening. There was a full moon and clear skies so that didn't help.
The temperature right now is 36* outside ....... brrrrr.
Yesterday morning I checked all the mouse traps and ....... drum roll ............. SUCCESS! The trap I out in our basement area had caught the little s.o.b. :-)
I cleaned the trap out and reset it in case he had friends that moved in with him.
This morning I have no TV :-(
We are on Dish network with our automatic Tailgater antenna but can't seem to get a signal. Nothing has changed since I turned the TV off last night (except it's colder). The thing goes through all the checks but can't seem to acquire the signal. I'm going to wait until it warms up some and see of that helps any and then I'll mess with it some more :-(.
I plan on heading into town later today to pick up our mail. Rudee has a list of things for me to pick up at the grocery and hardware store. I will probably plan my trip around meal time and bring home a treat. I think we have decided on Wendy's sandwiches and Mc Donalds french fries :-) I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

you asked for it Big Boy!

I enjoy reading other RVers blogs as they travel around. Many are filled with stories of their encounters with wild life, deer ambling through their campground, bald eagles swooping down and plucking a fish from the lake adjacent to their site .... well you get the idea.
I figured being out here in the middle of nowhere Texas surrounded by hunting ranches we would be privy to some sightings of wildlife. So far I have seen 2 butterflies, a preying mantis and a cow that I miss took for a deer :-).
That was until my "close encounter" last night.
With the gate being fairly slow after midnight I have been pulling out the hide-a-bed and catching a nap. Last night I turned the lights and TV off and laid down around 1:30am. I'm not sure what time it was but I sat straight up in bed because something had just crawled across my arm and I woke up brushing it off me! I turned the light on and there was nothing there ..... whew it was just a dream. All this talk about snakes has me a little spooked I guess :-).
I couldn't go back to sleep since my heart was racing from my bad dream so I put the bed away and turned the TV back on. I decided to make a pot of coffee and went into the kitchen. Next to the coffee pot on the counter was a banana whose end had been 1/2 eaten through. There was remnants of the banana peel all over the counter. Looks like we have mouse. Then my brain kicked in and I put 2 and 2 together ............ ewwwwwww! That wasn't a dream! I not only had a mouse in my bed but it used my arm as a highway ...... double ewwwww!! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been a Squirrel gathering his winter meal :-O
OK, bad joke but the guys can relate :-)
I baited up some traps to catch this gutsy little trespasser. He messed with the wrong guy! Nobody does a sneak attack on this guy and gets away with it. This means war!
The gate was a lot slower today and Rudee got in the mood to clean. She dusted the entire rig as well as mopping the floors and sweeping all the carpet. Our house is spic and span once again.
A couple of days ago I checked in the only female employee staying here at the rig site. She said she is a "mud tester" and just got the job. She had been a gate guard and decided this job sounded interesting so thought she would try it. Today she came back out to the gate and said that her and another "mud tester" had been let go as a cost saving measure. Needless to say neither her nor the other guy were too happy about it.
Later today the rental company showed up and they took away two of the portable light systems and a skid loader. Not sure what is happening but looks like someone is trying to shave some $$ on this drill site.
Hunter from Gate Guard Services arrived around 2pm and refilled our water and diesel tanks. He also changed the oil and filter on the generator. We are back on full hook ups, yay!
The temps were a little cooler today and it looked like it could start raining at any time. We did get a few sprinkles and this evening even had a light shower. Things are really dry around here and the moisture is appreciated.
Hopefully the gate will be slow tonight, I have a mouse to catch! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Black gold .... Texas tea ....

The drilling has begun. They fired up the big diesel engines that power the rig and started the drill spinning. We now have the steady roar of the rig running as well as our own generator.
The gate quiets down after 10:00pm or so and I can usually hit the sack for a few hours. Last night I had several vehicles dinging my driveway bell and they were all spaced about an hour apart. Doesn't leave much time for snoozing :-(.
No more snake reports today. Yay! Rudee doesn't like snakes and I can do without them. We came prepared with a small scoop shovel with a long handle that sits on the patio right next to the front door. I would rather get a gun and shoot these things but guns are frowned upon at drilling rigs so the shovel will be "weapon" of choice. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!
Tuesday and Thursday are "salesman" days and these are the only days the Company Man will take sales calls. Several salesman came in offering their companies services. I guess to be "politically correct" I should say "sales persons" since at least 1/2 of them were women :-)
Rudee was trying to wash dishes tonight and the flow of water slowed and then stopped. What's up with that? Since it was dark I grabbed a flashlight and headed for the water tank. Oh oh, tank is empty :-( I guess we were using more water than we thought or, more likely, the tank wasn't completely full when we left the yard last week. I called our supervisor Roger and told him we were a little thirsty and needed filled up :-). He said someone will be here tomorrow to top up the tanks. Our diesel fuel tank for the generator is down to about 30 gallons which shows we are going through about 10 gallons of diesel per day.
Our fresh water tank in the Montana was still 2/3 full so we will just use it until they fill the other one.
Yesterday was pay day! Whoo hoo, happy dance :-) My check is mailed to us so we rented a P.O. box in Cotulla the first day we were here. We have already gotten our first mail drop from the UPS store in Brownsburg and they are forwarding another batch to us this week. I'll probably go into town Friday afternoon to pick up the mail and some grocery items. Pizza Hut has a portable kitchen set up in the parking lot of the grocery store and they open their doors, well actually it's a "window", around 4:00pm so I may time things so that I can bring a hot pizza home for supper :-)
Cotulla is a small town in the middle of an oil boom and is trying to keep up. The grocery store is large and has a nice selection. The prices are a little higher than we are used too. Not a lot higher but 50 cents here and 75 cents there adds up pretty quick.
There are a couple of restaurants that some of our crew has been to and said they are pretty good. For fast food there is a Wendy's, McDonalds and a Dairy Queen.
The Ace Hardware is well stocked and is where we got our "snake shovel" :-). There are a couple of gas stations and that is about it for Cotulla.
There are all kinds of rumors flying on the RV forums that there is a large number of gate guards sitting around waiting for assignments. I have heard upwards of 30 just sitting in RV parks or at the company storage yard. I don't know if this is accurate or not and if it is, I have no idea how long it will be before they get a gate. Makes us feel pretty fortunate we are settled in here with a gate to guard.
The weather has been in the mid to upper 80's during the day and in the upper 60's at night. This is supposed to all change tomorrow with a predicted high of 66 and the low tomorrow night of 39. Brrrr. Guess I better keep my long johns handy! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 7, 2011

shake rattle and ......

The gate exploded with business today. The rush started around dawn and didn't stop all day. We had a shift change at the rig so we also had guys rushing out to start their time off.
There are several companies represented here and more arriving since the drilling is starting. One guy came in and warned us that he had just killed a fairly large rattle snake at the site he had just left. For proof he opened his tool box and pulled this out
Rudee wasn't too happy with this news and even more unhappy when we got a report that another one had been killed on our site! There are several mobile home type bunkhouses that the crew lives in during their week long shifts. The snake was found between two of the mobile homes.
The "safety man" here divides his time between this rig and another one nearby. He was gone most of the day and when he returned this evening he said they had also killed a 5' rattler at their site today. Guess we better be a little more careful moving around outside!
Looks like I will probably have a busy night tonight. I am hoping the "rush" is just from shift change and the fact they are starting drilling and things will not be as hectic as they were today.
The weatherman says we are in for some cool weather for the middle of the week. Highs are only going to be in the 60's and Wednesday night the lows are predicted to be in the high 30's. Maybe the cold will keep the snakes at bay! I'll keep you posted.