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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Just a quick note to let everyone know we made it back to Indiana and are settled into a campground about 7 miles from the grand kids. Rudee even took a turn at the wheel of the motor home.

We dropped the bike off at her Mom's house and will store it there for a little while and we also returned the U-haul trailer. The brake system on the Dakota is great! So much better than the Blue Ox "brake in a box" system we were using. This is so much easier to set up and works in conjunction with the brakes on the coach rather than on inertia like the other one.

The weather here is supposed to turn cold for a couple of days with the highs only in the 30's and the lows in the mid 20's. The campground just opened for the season Friday and they have not turned the water on to the sites yet. They are planning to do that either Thursday of Friday so we topped off the on board tank at the office and will run off that until we can hook up here at our site.

We are still discussing what to do about the bike but I think a plan is starting to come together so Steve and Joan, don't give up on us taking that ride together just yet! :-) I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 29, 2013

is this a crossroad?

We pulled out of the campground right at 10am and headed North. We took the I-410 loop around San Antonio before heading North on I-35. The traffic was heavy and as usual everybody was in a big hurry. I stayed in the right lane and ran my usual 60-62 MPH as the traffic whizzed by us. Texas seems to have some high speed limits for my taste. I suppose 70 MPH is no big deal on the interstates but we have been on some pretty rough and curvy two lane roads here where the speed limit is 75 MPH which seems like a recipe for disaster to us.
We ran into a little construction where the lanes were narrowed down with those cement barricades lining both sides of road. Just before entering the construction a larger class A motor home passed us running 70+ MPH and then changed lanes abruptly into our lane. He was going too fast and his maneuvers were too abrupt for that large a vehicle. He was driving that big RV like it was a small sports car! Right then the construction area started and as I was slowing down to give this moron more room the lanes shifted and his motor home begin swerving in his lane towards the barricades. Rudee yelled "look out he is going to hit" and sure enough the rear end of his motor home scraped along the barricades. Somehow he got control and moved back into the travel lane and away from the wall. He never even slowed down! Luckily we were far enough back to miss any carnage but would rather not have a front row seat to watch it! Luckily this guy was not towing anything or it could have been a lot worse, so if your the couple from Minnesota in the Class A traveling north on I-35 yesterday morning who now has a large scrape on the right rear of their coach .......... SLOW DOWN!

We stopped for fuel at a Flying J north of Austin and Rudee made us a quick lunch while I filled the rig up. Continuing north we exited at SR 31 in Waco and once out of town this turned into a really nice 4 lane road with almost no traffic at all. We passed through a couple of towns but really enjoyed this part of the trip. We arrived at M&G shortly after 4pm and they showed us where the hook ups were located. That's when we noticed "the problem". I always walk around the rig at every stop checking on the tires, tow bar, bike straps etc. I did that at the Flying J and all was well. When we got here the bike seemed to be leaning back away from the rear of the motor home at more of an angle then I thought it should. Rudee agreed and we started looking at the lift and found this.

That is a 1" tear in the steel on the lift (to the left of the hitch pin in the photo) and if it continues the bike, most of the lift and our tow car will all three tear away from the motor home. This is not good! 
We have been having trouble from day one with the lift going up and down and they told us all we had to do was shake the lift to get it to work. They said it must have some dirt or a metal burr causing problems and we were planning to take it back to have that issue fixed. Obviously the problem is a lot more serious then dirt! I told them I would be bringing the lift back and expected a full refund and would have to rent a trailer to transport the bike now. I also emailed them photos of the damage. They seemed concerned and acted very suprised the steel was actually tearing. Hopefully they will have no issues standing behind a defective product. Their lifts are supposed to hold 1000 lbs (bike is a little over 800) and allow you to tow a vehicle weighing up to 6,000 lbs (our Dakota is under 5,000) so we are within the advertised operating specifications of the lift. The tear is at the point where all the stress' of the bike bouncing caused by bumps in the road are centered so I just don't think their lift is as capable as they advertise.

We have located a U-haul trailer nearby to rent for the bike and will see about picking it up later today. We will go ahead and get the new brake installed on the Dakota this morning,, load the bike onto the U-haul trailer and will then start towards Indiana. Right now we are not sure what we are going to do in regards to the motorcycle. We can buy a trailer and tow it behind the motor home but that puts us back into two vehicles again and we were trying to avoid that. Plus we would have yet another vehicle to maintain and insure. We have talked about letting the bike go and not have a motorcycle anymore. This is a tough one because motorcycling has been a big part of our lives for over 20 years and we do enjoy it but does it fit into our "new" lifestyle? We don't know what decision we will make, right now we are focusing on getting everything back to Indiana where we can relax and discuss our options. Is this another crossroad in life? I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the great escape

Monday morning started out busy but Monday night was a total zoo. I was busy all night long with trucks and equipment running in and out of the gate. It seemed like the bell was going off every couple of minutes. When I check someone in I always look up the road as far as I can to see if another vehicle is coming. This night it seemed like I would no more get the door to the motor home shut and start to sit down when "ding, ding" I would be out the door again. Yep no nap time for me tonight! :-(

Things became a little more "normal" later in the day Tuesday but one of the bosses warned us we would have another busy night so I got ready for another gate guard work out for our last night here. Luckily the rush through our gate never materialized and traffic died off to just a couple of vehicles all evening. I was even able to get about 3 1/2 hours of quality sack time on the couch. :-)

Once the sun came up this morning we finished our packing up and prepared to move off the pad to make room for our replacements to park. Our service guy, Robert, was leading them to our (now their) gate and helping them get hooked up. He called us around 7:45 and said they had just left the yard but the other guards motor home started overheating after only 5 miles. They pulled over and found a broken hose. Robert ran back into town and was able to get supplies and make a temporary repair and they were back on the road in a little over an hour.
We had hoped to be on the road by 9am but ended up leaving an hour later than we thought. Our departure was not without it's own excitement though. Once we knew Robert had fixed the new guards motor home and was back on the road towards us, I started our motor home and raised the leveling jacks up. They came up just fine and got busy rolling up our electric cords. When I walked by the motor home I could hear the low air pressure alarm still beeping. That's seemed odd because I felt like the engine had been running long enough to build up the necessary pressure and the alarm should have turned off. I hopped into the drivers seat and sure enough both my air pressure gauges showed "0". Oh oh.
In a diesel coach if you don't have air pressure in the system then you cannot release the parking brake, which is a good thing because even if you got the parking brake off you would not have any brakes to stop the motor home once you started rolling. :-o
I told Rudee we had a problem and I started looking for a reason. I knew the air tank and air dryer was under the motor home between the front wheels and there are two cables that you can pull to drain the air and moisture out of the system. I had done this several weeks ago after we had parked at the gate. I followed the cables back to the valves they were hooked to and started "fiddling" with them. I had one of our two way radios and Rudee had the other one, She was watching the gauges to see if they moved at all. I "fiddled" the right one a little and then after I "fiddled" with the left one she radioed me that the gauges were climbing! Hooray! I did a quick leak down test on the brakes just to make sure they were operating correctly and we were back in business!

Since we got a later then anticipated start, and I was not wanting to drive a long distance with only a few hours sleep, our trip today was only a little over 100 miles. We stopped at Braunig Lake RV Resort which is a Passport America Park on the south side of San Antonio.  The park is nice but we are packed in like sardines. They have some nice amenities with a pool, hot tub, fishing lake, and a large clean laundry and of course you are just a few miles to downtown San Antonio.
We wont be staying to do any touring though. We have another 250 miles to travel tomorrow to get to the M&G factory. They have an area in their parking lot for us to park and spend the night while we wait for our appointment Friday morning.  We are not going to be in a big rush getting on the road tomorrow and are looking forward to a relaxing travel day. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 25, 2013

short timin'

As expected the crew arrived to perform the next process on the wells that are past our gate. We have been busy signing in and out all the workers and are trying to get the feel for the "ebb and flow" of this crew. The work they are doing will not take too long and they are predicting they will be done with the first well tomorrow and move to the other well and start working on it. That is only 2-3 days per well and then they will pick up the circus tents and head for their next site.
We are starting to fold our tents up as well. Rudee and I uncovered the Harley, cleaned some of the caliche' dust off of it and loaded it onto the lift mounted on the back of the motor home. Rudee had a little excitement when she took the cover off the bike and found a scorpion hiding underneath. She let out a few squeals and did a funny kind of dance that must have driven the scorpion away because I never did see it. :-)

Wednesday is departure day and we are looking forward to getting things back to normal again. Our replacements will be escorted to our site by one of the service guys for our company who will help them get set up and top off the water and diesel tank. Our plan is to have everything unhooked and the motor home moved before they arrive. There is a large area just outside the gate where we can park until they arrive and once we fill them in on the gate procedures we will head on down the road.

Our friends and fellow Hoosiers Kit and Jerry sent us an email that they had been offered another gate near Dilley, Texas. They had driven over to check it out and it sounds like a really nice gate. They accepted the position and were moving their rig over today to get settled in. Welcome back to the oil patch guys! :-)

Rudee asked me the other day what I wanted to do first after leaving the gate. I think the thing I miss most is just being able to go somewhere together. We didn't get to celebrate her Birthday so maybe I'll take her out for a nice dinner ........ hmmmmmm, sounds like a plan is forming. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Work camping couple needed

just got notification that our employer at Mt. Rushmore had a couple cancel. If you are interested in work camping in South Dakota with us this summer shoot me an email and we can give you the specifics and contact information. Basically it is 40 hours per week, couple have same days off, pay for all hours worked plus a full hook up site 3 miles from work. You would be doing retail work in the bookstores at Mt Rushmore.

email: philandrudee@gmail.com

short lived break

Our short break appears to be over and the gate is showing signs of getting busy again. We have had a lot of equipment delivered and rumors that another crew with even more equipment will arrive later today to start the next phase on the wells. Our slow down lasted only a few days, seem like I just started getting comfortable sleeping through the night and now I'll be back to working the "hoot owl" shift again.

We have decided that our last day will be next Wednesday and called our company asking for a replacement. We will be moving North with a stop near Dallas where we are getting a new breaking system installed on the Dakota. We decided to go with the M&G braking system and will have it installed at their factory Friday before we continue towards Indiana. The new brake system ties into the air brakes on the motor home and is a much better, and more reliable, system than the Blue Ox "brake in a box" we have been using.

Yesterday was my turn to drive into Cotulla and have lunch with the guys. We had a decent turn out and spent a couple of hours catching up on current events. Several of us are planning on leaving in the next week or two so it looks like the big snowbird migration is getting ready to start, weather pending of course. :-)
One face missing was our friend Jerry Bertelsen (http://www.kitandjerry.com/index.htm). They were out working their gate last Sunday and a motor home pulled in and told them they were their replacements. Turns out this couple had this gate long term and left a few months ago and the land owner requested they be returned to the gate when they were back working again. Doesn't seem right to me but a lot of things just don't make sense in this business. Kit and Jerry have returned to their home in Brackettville until another gate comes available. We have told them about our gate so they are stopping by for a visit later today and check things out. I'm not sure who they know down here but we no more found out they were visiting and a road crew showed up and filled up the largest craters on the road leading to us! These two must have some influence around here! :-)

We will slowly start packing things up getting ready for our departure next week. We are both more than ready to take a break and see some new scenery. I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

just hangin' around

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I just don't understand the way things are done here in Texas. Maybe it's the "Yankee" in me the causes me to just go "what the Heck?".
Here is a case in point. Many of the ranches here are hunting preserves where the owners stock everything from exotic animals to the "normal" deer, wild hogs, turkeys etc. These ranches are easy to spot by their 12' high fences surrounding the property. The ranchers make a pretty good living hosting out of towners who pay big money to kill a trophy deer or some exotic African animal.
I used to deer hunt some back in Indiana. We would hunt in State Forests or other government land as well as local private property (with permission of course). Our day consisted of getting up well before sunrise, dress in multiple layers of warm clothes, cover ourselves in deer urine or some other "scent" to mask our own and head into the woods. We would find a nice spot and sit in the freezing cold waiting on a deer to appear so we could fill the freezer. I probably wasn't very good at it because I never bagged a deer. The best opportunity I ever had was at a nice buck that walked out of the woods with in 50 yards of me. I had been sitting for hours and just when I laid my gun down to pour myself a cup of coffee from my thermos he appeared. Needless to say he survived the encounter and I decided to give up deer hunting! I swear I could hear him laughing as he disappeared into the corn field. :-)
Now, hunting here on the ranches are a little different. They have large tool sheds built with really tall legs set up in a clearing. Next to the tool sheds are automatic feeders that spread "deer corn" that can be purchased in 50 lb bags at about every store in every town in Texas. The hunters get up into the tool sheds and when the deer come by to eat the corn they "hunt" them. They pay the rancher based on which deer/animal they shoot. Quite a challenging sport, don't ya think? :-)
Anyway it's big business around here and the ranchers have a lot of money tied up in their "hunting stock". One thing they don't want are coyotes or bobcats attacking and killing the fawns so they trap and kill the predators. Then, this is where it gets a little weird, they hang the dead coyotes on the fence posts surrounding the ranch.

This is on the main road leading into Cotulla and there are about a dozen of the critters hanging in the space of 2 miles! I, being the "Yankee" that I am :-), googled the practice and supposedly this keeps live coyotes from coming onto the property. Not sure if it works or not, seems to me it would just drive them onto your neighbors property and then there would be the smell ...... ewww.

Things are still slow on the gate and this just makes our hitch itch even more pronounced .... 2 more weeks. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

is that a "flicker"?

Our gate is starting to return to normal after over 2 weeks of "busier than a one arm paper hanger". The process just completed on the two wells requires the use of large pumps with huge diesel motors all mounted on semi trailers. There were over 20 of these units on our site and the company moved all but three of them by Tuesday evening. Business through the gate had even slowed down enough that I decided to sleep in the "big boy bed" instead of trying to cat nap while curled up on the couch. I closed the gate and we turned in around 11:00 pm after a very quiet evening. I no more drifted off to sleep and "ding ding" the driveway bells woke me up. CRAP! I went outside and found a van load of workers wanting to come in and remove the last 3 semi trucks. I checked them in and went back inside to wait for them to exit. They were back at the pad for almost an hour and when they came back out there were only 2 semis and the van. I asked about the third one and they said they couldn't get it started and out the gate they went.
By this time it was almost 1:00 am when I headed back to the bedroom trying not to disturb Rudee. Shortly after 5:00 am the bells sounded again. I went back outside and found two of the same guys at the gate that were there at midnight. They said they were there to pick up the last semi and were sure they would be able to get it started this time. They went back to the pad and I was surprised when they came back in 10 minutes without the semi. They said they couldn't start it because there were no keys in it. I asked if maybe one of the other crew members from earlier this morning had forgot and left with the keys? They told me no that wasn't possible because the reason they couldn't start it at 1 am was because there were no keys then either! I wasn't sure what to say after that, not sure why they thought the keys would be there at 5am when they were not there at 1am!
Later that morning I turned the gate over to Rudee so I could take a little nap to catch up on the sleep I missed. When I woke up she told that right after I went to bed a crew showed up again to pick up the semi. She asked if they had the keys and they assured her they did and would be right back out with it. They returned to the gate in a few minutes without the semi. When she asked them "where is the truck?" they told her they couldn't get it started because there were no keys in it. Really??!!! I mean this went from being kind of funny to becoming a big pain in the butt with us in the middle! :-)

Rudee made a trip into Cotulla to meet some of the other lady gate guards at JJ's Restaurant for a late lunch. She also did the weekly grocery shopping and brought me back a Wendy's chicken sandwich and a Frosty. :-)
While she was in town one of the company trucks pulled up once again to pick up the semi truck. I asked them of they had the keys? They told me no, they decided that the keys were indeed lost and instead had a mechanic with a new ignition switch with keys. They were there to replace the ignition and get the truck running again. Well, I guess that is one way to get it done, I would have thought there would be a spare key somewhere but doesn't sound like it. They were back at the pad for about 30 minutes and out they came but no semi. What the heck??!! They told me that the ignition has been replaced, the keys are in the ignition and the engine starts. The problem is neither one of them has a CDL so they cannot drive the truck down the highway so they had to leave it here! You have got to be kidding me! I swear there is no way I could make this stuff up! I just knew they would be showing up in the middle of the night again to pick up this semi. Oh well, such is the life of an oil field gate guard. :-)

The good thing is there is a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. We have just over 2 weeks before we will turn the gate over to another guard and begin to head North. We have a couple of stops to make on the way that should make for some decent "blog fodder". :-)
Our plan is to be back in Indiana by Sunday April 7th because we have an appointment to have our taxes done on the 8th. We will take care of some medical appointments and of course get some quality family time before leaving for South Dakota later in the month. We are both looking forward to the new job at Mount Rushmore and were a little nervous these newest budget cuts would effect us. We have been in contact with our employer and been assured that all is well and their season has been fully funded.

Wednesday night just before dark a crew arrived and removed the final semi! Whoo hoo! Maybe I will be able to get some quality sack time! I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

shake, rattle ... time to roll?

We are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for this process at our gate. The crew told us they should be finishing up sometime Sunday and then there will be a mass exodus. I'm sure it will take them another day or even two to remove all the equipment so we are not out of the woods yet.

Speaking of out of the woods, we had a visitor just a few hundred yards up the road from our motor home.

Yep, that's a Rattlesnake that is at least 4' long! One of the truck drivers told us about it and said it was the second one he had seen that had been ran over in the roadway in as many days. I guess the warmer weather has got them moving again. Rudee is pretty sure that she will be moving too if they get any closer! :-)
I would go so far as to say that if she saw one that was still alive she wouldn't come back out of the motor home until we crossed the Indiana state line! :-)

Since I work the night shift it was my job to change all the clocks since we "spring forward". The good news is I will get off an hour earlier. Well not really since that means Rudee would get an hour less sleep and I just don't have the heart to go in and wake her up early.  I'm not sure if I like the daylight saving time or not. Until recently Indiana did not change their clocks and it was always a hot topic every year the law makers tried to change it. They finally got it changed a few years ago so now, twice a year, there are big debates if it is good or bad. I'm kind of on the fence on the issue. I mean, does it really matter to full time RVers what the clock says when the sun rises or sets? Oh well, I set the clocks ahead anyway and in a couple of weeks our "internal clocks" will adjust as well. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 8, 2013

more excitement

Wednesday Rudee took over the gate earlier than normal so I could get some sleep before heading into town. She woke me up shortly after noon and I was able to meet the guys in Cotulla for a nice lunch. Afterwards I filled up our portable propane bottle that had ran dry a few days ago. We have been using it since we arrived at the gate the 30 lbs (approx. 7 gallons) lasted us for 6 weeks. The Ace Hardware is the only place to refill propane in Cotulla so I was surprised when the charge was only $20. Seems like most of the stores around here have "boom town" prices. Back in Indiana I have seen prices in the high $20 range so felt like I was getting a pretty good deal here.
I stopped at the store and did the shopping as well as picked up our mail at the post office. Before leaving town I hit the drive through at Mc Donald's and brought us a fast food treat home for dinner.

Back at the gate Rudee was having some excitement of her own when this guy came hauling butt across the ranch.

Seems like another pick up truck carrying illegals had ditched just off the highway and they had fled on foot onto the ranch next to ours. This is the 2nd week in a row this has happened. They had a helicopter circling and Rudee said it was so close that the rotor blades would cast a shadow over the motor home windshield when it flew over! :-o
By the time I got back they were all leaving and we heard they had picked up four illegals but were not sure how many, if any, were still on the run. Needless to say I was on high alert the rest of the night.

Thursday the ranch owner and his wife came through and were checking their fences for damage, They stopped and talked awhile and told us that Wednesdays seem to be the day for illegals to be in the area. Not sure why but they said when they hear the Border Patrol helicopter circling they know it must be Wednesday. :-)

The gate is still really busy and we are both ready for the slow down. We are not sure when that will happen but are keeping our fingers crossed it will be soon. We are doing way too many trips in and out the door! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

better get movin'!

Not a whole lot to report from our little slice of heaven here in the giggle weeds. We have about another week to go with the current crew. Things should slow back down after they leave.

We are still splitting our shifts and most nights I have been able to squeeze in an hour or two nap during the night. These guys sure do start early. The majority of them start rolling through the gate around 4am. There is usually a pretty steady stream of them in their pick up trucks (all white, of course) until after 5am and then it's mostly semi trucks coming and going the rest of the time.
The caterer has been making regular appearances too! We had a whole pile of chicken fingers and fried Okra a couple of days ago. We ate some, froze some and had enough left over to pass out to friends and fellow gate guards Kit and Jerry who are just a few miles away from us on a gate.
Today we had bacon cheeseburgers with baked beans. UMMMMM Good!

The other day this guy landed on a post at the entrance to our gate.

Looks like he was looking for an easy meal. I guess I may need to get up and start moving a little more so he doesn't mistake me for road kill! :-)

Tomorrow I will make the trip into Cotulla to pick up our mail and groceries. Several of the guys are meeting at JJ's Restaurant for a late lunch and that is always a good time too. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Groundhog Day .... the movie

Ding dong, hut two three four
up and out the door
write the name on the board
hut two three four.

Being a gate guard is a lot like the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. He repeats the same day (groundhog day) over and over. That is where we are at right now. We have the exact same vehicles coming and going at pretty much the exact same time everyday. The excitement the illegal aliens caused the other day wore off pretty quickly and the monotony is starting to drive me nuts. :-)

A few days ago a caterer came in and cooked for the crew. Normally they include the gate guards when they cook and sure enough, when they were leaving for the day, they gave us a couple of left over steaks.  There were no side dishes and it was well after meal time but that's OK. We ended up freezing one of the steaks and shared the other one later in the week for supper.

The weather has cooled down the last few nights with lows dropping into the upper 30's. Brrrrr! I broke out my stocking cap to keep my ears warm on those late night, or is it early morning, trips out the door.
We have also been running the furnace occasionally to keep the rig warmed up. Our electric heaters work pretty well but when it gets really cool we like to run the furnace. You might remember we had to have the furnace worked on in January when it wouldn't fire up. The technician replaced the circuit board and it has been working great since, knock on wood.

We are starting to plan our trip North and are both looking forward to the change. We are missing our family and friends and look forward to seeing them all again before heading on our next work camping adventure. I'll keep you posted!