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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

finding a groove

We have really been busy the last several days with the new crew. Each new process undertaken at an oil well comes with it's own "schedule" of sorts and we have been trying to get into sync with this one. The crew arrives early, like way before dawn early! That is when I have a flurry of activity at the gate that lasts for about an hour. Once that rush is over the gate changes from employee traffic to semi traffic. They use a lot of materials at this stage and the trucks run in and out several times a day keeping us (and them) hopping.

Yesterday Rudee made our weekly trip into town for supplies. Cotulla is about a 40 minute drive and is the closest town with the stores we need. We go on Wednesdays to correspond with a gathering of other gate guards at a local restaurant. I was out of bed early and took control of the clipboard around noon and Rudee headed out. My afternoon was going smoothly until about 4:30 when a Border Patrol SUV came skidding to a stop in front of the motorhome. The officer told me they had chased a pick up truck onto our road, the pick up crashed and about a dozen suspected illegal aliens scattered into the scrub brush. They had a helicopter on the way and she told me to stay inside and lock the doors.
The helicopter arrived in about 5 minutes and begin circling an area about a 1/2 mile from our gate. I called Rudee to let her know what was happening and to be really careful on her way home. The helicopter searched back and forth for about an hour and then left. By the time Rudee got to the end of our road there was only a wrecker and one officer left. He told her they had 14 people in custody and "thought" they had them all. She said he wasn't too convincing though so we kept our eyes open and the door locked the rest of the night. :-)

We have had some questions of how we like the motor home compared to the 5th wheel so I will try and answer that.
There are pros and cons to both units. I like the motor home when we are traveling just for it's convenience. When we stop for a quick break we don't even have to get out if we don't want too, although I almost always do just so I can make sure all is Ok with the tires, toad, bike etc.
The motor home is easier to park and set up once we park for the night too.
One downside is you give up some living space for the dash and steering wheel that you don't have in a 5th wheel and we went from 4 slides in the 5er to just 2 slides in the Winnebago so we lost some square footage which also translates to losing inside storage. We gained a lot more outside storage so we just shifted some more things to the basement.
We both really like the hydraulic leveling jacks on the motor home. They really hold the rig steady even in the 50 mph winds we had the other day. :-o
All in all we are happy with the change. Towing the Dakota vs Rudee following me saved us around $300 in fuel so far and we really like being in the same vehicle again instead of having to "sight see" via radios. We plan on doing a few decorating changes and are exploring getting the couch reupholstered and redoing the valances over the windows. We'll see how that all goes. :-)

I'm doing my best to get used to being up all night and sleeping during the day. I used to do it all the time back in my Sheriff Dept. days but that was a few years ago. I'm not saying I'm getting old but ...... I'll keep you posted. :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

switching things up a little

Our gate has transformed from a quiet spot in the middle of nowhere into a hotspot! We have really been burning through the lead in our pencil the last few days and don't see signs of a slow down for at least another couple of weeks.
I did try and use the slower times to get some things fixed up on the motor home. The last thing on my list was to try and figure out why our step cover didn't work. The door to our home is in the very front passenger side and has 3 steps right in front of the passenger seat. The step cover is made to "extend" the floor and cover the step well while we are traveling and operates by flipping a switch on the passenger  arm rest mounted on the wall.
I did some research and found others have had problems as well and gave some tips on getting it to move again. The step cover actually works off the air from the coach that pushes (and pulls) an arm attached to the cover. There is also a switch on the dash to "dump" the air out of the system so it can be operated manually. My first attempt at a repair was to clean all the electrical contacts on the air/power relay mounted on the firewall. This seemed to be the most likely problem judging by the responses I read on the internet. Once everything was cleaned up and I made sure all the connections were good and tight I fired up the engine to build up the necessary air pressure. That is when I noticed the switch on the dash felt "funny". I took it apart and found that the air line coming to the switch had become disconnected so I put it back together and replaced it on the dash. I tried to get the cover to "go" using the switch but no luck. I then took the the switch housing apart so I could get a closer look at that wiring. I'm not sure what I did but as I was messing with it Rudee said "it's moving". The bad thing was I could only get it to extend and not retract. :-(
I reversed the wires and low and behold it retracted! I had a bad switch, or so I hoped. A call to Winnebago turned out to be hopeless. They had discontinued the switches and redesigned the step cover several years ago. My next stop was my old stand by ... Ebay! I searched through several pages of switches and found one that I thought was close to what I needed. Who knew there were that many different switches out there, Wow!
The switch I ordered was under $3.00 including shipping so I wasn't taking too big a gamble and it was being sold by someone in Iowa and not someplace overseas, another plus.
The switch arrived here last week after going to our "home" address in Indiana and then being forwarded to the post office here where I picked it up on my last run into town for supplies.
As soon as I got back to the motor home I installed the switch and it fit perfectly in the hole the previous one was in. I started the engine and waited for the air to build up. I crossed my fingers and then flipped the switch. The cover extended! Now the big test. I flipped the switch the other way and it retracted! Oh Ya! That's the way it is supposed to work. :-) Another job crossed off my "honey do" list.

The weather has been really nice, mid 70's during the day and into the 40's at night. They are predicting some gusty winds starting tonight and into tomorrow so we are battening down the hatches. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 22, 2013

change in the air

Our little slice of heaven here in Texas has started getting busier. There has been a noticeable change in the traffic patterns and the amount of vehicles we have visiting us. We started our split shift schedule earlier this week. I work the night shift and Rudee takes the daylight hours. That first night shift is always a struggle with me having to stay up for 18-24 hours straight. I did get a short cat nap in the recliner but I was sure ready to hit the sack once Rudee vacated the bed. :-)

Last week we had a visitor. Fellow blogger, work camper and gate guard Susan stopped by and paid us back for visiting her in January. She is currently waiting on a gate assignment and, like us, is on her second season as a gate guard.
We do enjoy visitors so if you happen to be in the area drop us an email. We would love to have you stop by.

We had a another visitor of a different sort also.

This guy, or is it a girl, showed up in the scrub brush across the road from the motorhome the other day. I managed to get a photo but those things are quick! Meep Meep!

We are at the half way point of our gate guarding for this year. Another 5 weeks and we'll head back to Indiana for a visit with family and then on to South Dakota for our summer work camping gig. Spring is in the air! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines Day

Shortly after posting my last update our service guy, Robert, pulled up. Our tanks are now full of water and fuel so we are good to go again, for awhile anyway. :-)
I always keep the on board water tank full when we are gate guarding. This gives us a nice reserve just in case they have trouble getting us serviced. Better safe than sorry.

Tuesday I decided to get up off my lazy rear end and do something ..... anything! I took a nice long (about 1.5 mile) walk. I need to do that everyday because it is just too easy to sit around here and get fat and lazy! Since it has been slow it seems all I do is go from the recliner to the patio chair and then back to the recliner again. That, coupled with three home cooked meals a day, is a recipe for disaster! :-)

Wednesday Rudee drove into Cotulla for the weekly Gate Guard get together. This week was the ladies turn. She left around noon, giving her time to stop at the post office and do a little shopping at Dollar General before meeting the girls at the restaurant.
While she was gone I finished up the laundry and defrosted the freezer. I also removed the ice maker from the freezer to give us some more room for food.
Our refrigerator is not the wide 4 door model so we are limited a little on space. The ice maker takes up quite a bit of the usable space in our freezer that we felt we could put to better use.
We already have a portable ice maker that we have used since starting our full timing and really love it. We can use bottled water as opposed to the "outside" water the RV parks, or in our case the company, provides which can be "questionable" as to origin, quality and taste.
We had never used the ice maker in the freezer since the water had been turned off for winterizing so taking it out was pretty easy. I removed the 4 screws that attach it to the wall of the freezer, unplug the wiring and pulled the unit out. I replaced the screws back into the holes and we will save the ice maker in case we ever want to install it again.
Rudee was pretty happy with the extra room and even brought home a half gallon of ice cream to fill up the empty hole. :-)

I surprised Rudee this morning with her Valentines gift. This was waiting for her when she woke up.

I'll be honest though, it was pretty tough figuring out a nice present being "locked" to this gate 20 miles from anywhere!
The candy and card I bought on my last trip to town and had it hidden in the Dakota. I hand picked the flowers right here next to our motorhome this morning and arranged them myself. :-) I guess my talents are expanding. :-)

We are seeing a little more activity and looks like they are preparing for the next phase of work at our site. Looks like we may start getting a lot busier in the next week or two. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"that just aint right"

We had a fairly quiet week end and enjoyed the cooler temperatures. We have left the windows open each night which makes for nice sleeping. :-)

Our gate is right at the end of the little dirt county road ..... almost. The road makes a 90 degree turn right at our gate and there is another pad and gate about 1/4 mile past us. There is no gate guard there but there has been a lot of activity the last couple of weeks. The workers arrive early and then leave as it gets dark so there is quite a few vehicles in and out. They do not come onto our property so we do not have to sign them in or out thankfully because, even with the turn in the road, they don't slow down much. Saturday evening I was out grilling a steak for dinner shortly after dark. I had all the flood lights turned on and they do a pretty good job of lighting the area. The workers were leaving the other site so there was a fairly steady stream of vehicles passing by the front of the motor home but then one of the vehicles seemed to just stop in front. I could hear his diesel engine idling but didn't give it much thought. After a minute or so when he didn't pull away I walked around the front of the motor home to see what the problem may be and if he needed any help. The passenger was out of the truck with the back door open and it was quite obvious what he was doing just by the way he was standing! He had his back to us but "Dude"! "Find another place to take a whiz". Now I have been somewhat of an outdoorsman so understand when "ya gotta go, ya gotta go", but there is a 1.5 mile road ahead of you with nothing on it and you choose to stop in the road in front of the only occupied structure with flood lights shining bright? I guess maybe he needed to "see" what he was doing? That just aint right. :-)

Sunday we needed to get a letter into the mail so Rudee sent me into Big Wells for that errand. Now if Big Wells is "big" I would hate to see Little Wells. :-)
There are a few houses, a post office, a gas station/mini mart combo and a small restaurant/bar. I was going to bring some lunch back as a treat for Rudee and I so planned to get a carryout meal at the restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed on Sundays. :-(
I stopped into the mini mart to check it out and there were some guys in there ordering food so I decided to check out their menu. The guys in front of me got their order and headed back to their vehicles since there are no tables or chairs of any kind. The menu board was up and turns out the only thing they offer on Sundays is Manudo. We had been forewarned of this Mexican delicacy last year and decided it wasn't for us. They make it out of intestines and either pigs or cow feet. For some reason I didn't think this would be a "treat" for Rudee so I passed. Guts and feet in a soup? That just aint right!
We are getting pretty low on water and diesel fuel for the generator. Our service guy has not been out for awhile, in fact it has almost been two weeks since we saw him last. I will give him a call this afternoon if he doesn't show up before then. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 8, 2013

dust bowl or mud bog?

Two things gate guards despise are windy days and rainy days. Don't get me wrong though, we appreciate a nice cooling breeze on a hot day as well as the soothing sound of rain lightly falling on the roof of the rv while we are sleeping. :-)
But there is another side to it. The wind blows the dust into big clouds that cover EVERYTHING. The rain then turns all that dust into MUD. Yuck!
In the last week we have had both. The wind kicked up last week end and the dust was blown to the point we had "dust drifts", similar to snow drifts back home, in the road. Later that same day the wind shifted and blew all the same dust back across the road where it came from! :-)
Tuesday the rain started and turned all that dust into mud. What a mess! The road leading back to our site was now a quagmire. All the large craters were now full of water so there was no way to tell how deep they were. I experienced all this first hand when I drove to town Wednesday afternoon.
I made the trip to meet with some of the other gate guards at a restaurant in Cotulla. We take advantage of these trips and do our grocery shopping and other errands after lunch with the gang.
There were about a dozen of other guards there and I enjoyed swapping stories with them. After lunch I made stops at the post office, grocery and gas station. I also picked us up a couple of sandwiches and a Frosty at Wendy's for later. :-)
Next week will be Rudee's turn to meet with the ladies. Hopefully she wont have to use the 4 wheel drive on the Dakota to leave our little piece of heaven out here in the giggle weeds. :-)
Things have been drying out here and our starting to return to "normal" if there is such a thing in the world of Gate Guarding. I'll keep you posted/

Monday, February 4, 2013

small world visitors

We had a slow week end with only a handful of entries in our logs which suits us just fine. I don't mind being a lazy gate guard since it pays the same as a run you a&$ off gate guard. :-)

Sunday afternoon I received an email from blog readers Max and Shirley. They were in the area waiting on their first gate assignment and thought we might like some visitors. Absolutely! We love visitors! They included their cell number so I called them right away and gave Max directions to our gate.
I knew they were from Indiana so we had that connection as well as being fulltimers and now gate guards. They arrived around 5pm and we sat outside under the awning getting to know each other. They mentioned they moved from Indiana to Florida several years ago and when we asked them where in Florida they told us they used to own a home in Zephyrhills! That is where our double wide that I inherited from my parents is located! Wow, it is a small world indeed. :-)
They had several questions about gate guarding and we did our best to pass on everything we could think of to help them along their way. I remember last year when we were rookies and showed up at Kit and Jerry Bertelsen's gate and they helped us out the same way. I always like to "pay it forward". :-)

Max and Shirley left just as the sun was setting. As they pulled out of the gate I flipped the flood lights on and decided to go ahead and close the gate for the night (or so I hoped). Rudee got busy making us something to eat and we settled in front of the TV in time to see the Super Bowl half time show and the second half of the game while munching on hot wings and nachos. Now that's Super Bowl food if I ever heard of any!
The game turned out to be really exciting. We were rooting for the 9ers because Jim Harbough used to be our Quarterback in Indianapolis. His nick name while here was "Captain Comeback" and he just about lived up to it again. Exciting!

I am looking forward to a trip to town on Wednesday to meet some of the other men at JJ's Country Store and Restaurant for lunch and some "guy time". I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

early spring?

The big news this morning is that fat rat in Pennsylvania did not see his shadow. That means there is only 4 more weeks of winter left. I'm not sure if I believe that but, growing up in the snow belt, you look forward to any kind of relief you can get! :-)

No problem with snow here. In fact the weather has been pretty darn nice. We suffered through a couple of days of gusty winds but that was nothing compared to the weather those of you further North were experiencing. We prepared for the wind by closing the awnings and putting away anything that could be blown around. We even put the slides in during the worst of the wind to protect the awnings attached to them. Our preparations paid off and we didn't have any damage and have since put the awnings back out to enjoy the shade and moderate temperatures.

Today marks the start of our 3rd week here. Last week was a little busier but the crews are still finishing their work by 6pm and the gate is usually very quite until they show up again at 7 the next morning. I can get used to this! :-)

I have had some interruptions a couple of nights to let vehicles in dropping off equipment but luckily they are in and out pretty quick.

We are enjoying our time here, not as much fun as traveling and exploring but my Dad always told me, "if your gonna dance you have to pay the fiddler". So we'll be here several more weeks making some $$'s and looking forward to our next dance. I'll keep you posted.