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

Friday, February 28, 2014

two down!

We have completed two full weeks at our current gate and have settled into a routine. Our hats are off to the folks who do this job months or even years at a time. The money is good but the days are mundane and repetitious. We do enjoy working with the crews on the rigs. They are all very polite and we do our best to learn their names and memorize their license plates. Rudee is a lot better at it than I am and our dash is littered with "cheat sheets" of names to help me out. :-)

We have made a lot of progress on our move to Texas. Our license plates, registrations and titles are all being processed and should arrive at our address in the next few days. We have updated our address on just about every account we can think of and have changed our insurance policies over to Texas. We still have to change our drivers licenses so I'm not running out and buying a cowboy hat just yet. :-)

We did have some rain here on Tuesday which made things a muddy, sloppy mess. Our pad is pretty well packed down and wasn't too bad but the road getting in was a mess. We are 3/4 of a mile from the main road on Pena Rd. which, for the first 1/2 mile is a mix of blacktop and hard packed gravel. The remaining 1/4 mile is mostly red clay and sand which turns into a quagmire when it gets wet. Once you pass our gate the quagmire continues and there are at least two more gates further down so we at least have it a little better then they do. :-)

We are not sure what the future holds for this job, they have finished drilling one well and are moving a few feet on the pad to drill another one. We figure that will take another 2-3 weeks by the time they are done and moved out. The next major step would be to Frac (hydraulic fracturing) the wells but I have no idea when this would be scheduled and information is a little hard to come by on this job. We are hoping to stay a total of 7 weeks before heading North of course I'll keep you posted. I will leave you with a sunrise shot of another day on the gate.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

life in the oil patch

Yep Gang we are still here, workin away in the oil fields. :-)
Our days so far have been pretty predictable. Rudee normally relieves me around 8 am and I go to bed shortly afterwards. I'm usually up by 4 pm and we share the gate duties until after dark when I take over completely and She turns in around 10 pm. We have had some busier days but mostly things have been pretty laid back. I have even been able to catch a nap for an hour or two each night. As I said before our pad is pretty cozy and we are pretty close to the rig.

One nice thing is we are really close to town. We are able to jump into the Dakota and make a quick run for groceries and be back at work in a flash. Last year we were on a gate near Valley Wells, Texas. The road to our pad was 1/2 mile of craters and pot holes that you had to navigate really slow or risk substantial damage to your vehicle. We were also 20 miles away from the nearest grocery store. We like this site much better. :-)

Last year we established our domicile in South Dakota, mostly because it was convenient for us since we were spending the summer working at Crazy Horse. Full time RVers can declare most any state as their "home" but some, like Florida, Texas and South Dakota are desirable because of their lack of a state income tax. Each of these states have a large population of full time RVers and are very accommodating to us for the most part.
We, along with everyone else, had no idea how the new Affordable Care Act was going to effect us at that time. We had our own health insurance through a carrier in Indiana and maintained that until we were able to sign up for SD insurance on the government website. We did that in November, selecting a policy (the only one available at that time) that offered "nationwide" coverage. I called the company prior to signing up and explained our lifestyle, residence and our need for a wide network of providers. The customer service agent was very nice and gave me access to their list of providers stating I would have no issues anywhere we were traveling. They took our money for the policy starting in January, shortly after that I got a letter saying I had to provide them of proof that I lived in SD and had a physical presence for a minimum of 9 months per year. I called them and explained our full time RV lifestyle (the same thing I told them in November) and they said they have never and would never insure someone who lived and traveled full time and I would have to have a house in SD or I would be terminated. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. True to their word they terminated our coverage on January 31st so we were back to square one. After a lot of research and several days of discussing things back and forth we decided to switch our domicile from SD to Texas. Blue Cross of Texas welcomes full timers and the Escapees RV Club, which we have been members of for several years, operates a first class mail forwarding service from their headquarters in Livingston, TX. We made contact with the DMV office near our new address and we are in the process of getting our vehicles registered and will be getting our Texas drivers licenses before leaving here in April. We have signed up for health insurance and are getting things back on track. Rudee has spent literally two whole days updating our new address with our banks, pensions, insurance providers and pretty much everyone else that sends us mail. That is one big job! Not to be out done I decided to tackle the job of filing our tax returns. The last couple of years we have paid H&R Block to do the dirty deed. Last year they tripled the price on us and charged us over $500 to do our returns! :-o I decided then and there that I was going to start doing them myself again. I use one of those popular computer programs and it is not too hard but it does take some time. We not only had the federal return but two state returns to complete as well since we worked in Kentucky and had to file for Indiana. The whole ordeal took us 4 1/2 hours but we are happy we got it done for another year.

We got a call from Amazon the other day and had our phone interviews. We accepted their offer of jobs for this fall and will be going back to Campbellsville, Kentucky in October. Right now our plans include staying here and working until the first of April when we will head back to Indiana to spend a couple of weeks visiting. We are due to start at Crazy Horse the first full week of May and will work there through September when we will return to Indiana for another couple of weeks before heading to Amazon. We will be done there no later then December 23rd. This allows us to spend Christmas with our family. We'll kind of play it by ear after that but who knows, we may be back here, at our new home state, eating dust in the oil fields again. :-) I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

back on a gate

We arrived at our new "home" in the Texas oil fields Wednesday morning and spent most of the day getting everything set up. We are at the very western edge of Cotulla, Texas which is 1/2 way between San Antonio and the border town of Loredo. This gate is pretty compact and we are only about 200 yards from the entrance to the pad where they set up the drilling rig so we are pretty much right in the center of the action. We have once again split our shifts with me working nights and Rudee taking the day shift. Things have become steadily busier each day as the rig went from a bunch of individual pieces into a working oil platform. The last time we worked a site with a drilling rig the actual drilling process took about 4 weeks to complete. We'll see how this one goes, of course once the well is drilled there are several other operations they perform once the rig is torn down and removed. Our plan right now is to just keep our heads down and power through the next month or two. We need to build up our accounts and pay for the new roof on our rental in Florida. We will likely leave here the first week of April so we can spend a little time with family back in Indiana before reporting back to Crazy Horse the first week of May. I'll be taking some pictures of our site in the next few days and get them uploaded to the blog and of course I'll have some interesting things to write about "life on the gate". I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a little hiccup and a change of direction

Our plans when making the decision to winter in Florida included doing some sprucing up on our double wide retirement home that we have rented out. We planned to start that as soon as we had a couple of nice days in a row where we could do some painting. All that changed when we got a call that the roof was leaking and needed repaired ASAP. The Realtor that handles things for us called a contractor to inspect things and give us an estimate. The roof is a rubber membrane similar to those on most RVs and we have had a leaking issue before that cost us in the neighborhood of $1K to repair a couple of years ago. The news back from the contractor was not good but not surprising. The entire membrane needed replaced, it was shrinking and would continue to be an issue. The first estimate was over $4K so we had the Realtor do some shopping with some other local contractors. The roof can certainly be repaired but it was already obvious to us it would most likely need replaced even before the contractors report. We decided to bite the bullet and get it done. Now we just needed to take the big hit on the budget. We had no more made the decision on the roof when, after returning from a trip to town, Rudee announced "I smell something hot". I knew she wasn't talking about me and she kept hovering over the right front wheel of the truck so, dummy me, put my hand on the brake rotor and "$@#@!"
So now we had brake issues on the Dakota so the following day we took it into a repair shop where we got the happy news we needed new pads in front and back, new calipers, new rear wheel cylinders and spring kits. They also found that the tie rod ends were worn out. $1500 later we had a great turning and stopping truck. :-)
So with all the $$'s going out we really, really needed to get some coming in to replace it. This time of year we only knew of one place where a work camper can make some decent money fairly quickly, being a gate guard in the oil fields of Texas. I made a few calls and got the ball rolling for us to return. Things looked pretty good for us getting a gate fairly quickly but, of course, we had to be there ready to go first.
We made the final decision on Friday and by noon on Saturday we were pulling out and heading west. I was pretty bummed to be leaving Florida for the dusty, scrabble of the Texas desert but "you gotta do what ya gotta do".
Saturday evening we stayed near Pensacola and Sunday evening we made it just over the Texas state line before stopping for the night. Monday morning I called our gate guard company to see which direction we may be needed. They have several service facilities that also have hook ups for their guards to use while waiting on a gate. We were directed to the Carrizo Springs yard which we have worked out of the last couple of years. We got detoured in Houston due to a really bad accident that shut down the interstate. We were working our way around that when the manager at the yard called us to let us know he had a gate for us starting Wednesday morning. Cool beans!

Today we had to make a quick run to Uvalde, Tx about 50 miles North of us to the nearest Dodge dealership. During the last 100 miles of our trip the check engine light came on in the Dakota and it started shifting really hard and not running exactly right. On the way there we called old friends Kit and Jerry who live nearby, They had heard we were coming to Texas (small world here in "fulltimers land") and were hoping we could get together. They picked us up at the dealership and Jerry played chauffeur for all of us. We made stop for lunch as well as a Wal Mart run before returning for the truck. Turns out the TPS had PMS and decided to throw a little fit. The new throttle position sensor cost a little over $300 to fix but with fingers, toes, legs and eyes all crossed we are hoping the mechanical issues are behind us for awhile.
We said our goodbyes to Kit and Jerry who promised to come and see us at the gate before we head North. "See ya soon guys, thanks for keeping us company today".

Our new gate is going to work out pretty good I think. We will only be about a mile outside the town of Cotulla which is where we have always gone to do our shopping and errands in the past. The last two years we had to drive between 40-50 miles round trip for groceries. With this gate we are only a few minutes away! Sweet! Of course that means McDonalds, Wendy's and the Dairy Queen are also really handy so we will need to be careful or we may be replacing the shocks on the truck next! :-)
Tomorrow is moving day and our first day of Gate Guarding 2014! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

starting to heat up a little

We have a had quite the week here in sunny Florida! Larry and Sue Hatton worked with us at Amazon and live right up the road in Invernes. They really liked some of our remodeling we did on our rig and a few weeks ago I offered to help them with theirs if they wanted to make some changes. Several days ago we made plans to meet them for dinner and make a stop at Lowes for new blinds. After meeting up with them at their rig we measured the existing blinds and went shopping. Lowes had the exact replacements we were looking for and they cut them to our measurements while we waited. A quick stop for some dinner and we were back at the rig with tools in hand. :-)
Larry worked at removing the old blinds while Rudee and I mounted the new ones. Sue was bouncing back and forth helping both the demolition crew and the install crew! The change out took us a little over an hour and they are happy with the results. They were also interested in removing the old living room TV and replacing it with a new flat screen. I took a look at the cabinet and "piece of cake"! Frankly it looked easier to do than the one in our coach. They liked hearing that and Larry got busy and ordered a mounting bracket from Amazon. He had already scoped out the TV's at Best Buy and as soon as the bracket arrives he will pick one up.
Last Monday the bracket arrived and the new TV was in the back of their SUV so we made plans to do the install Tuesday afternoon. Removing the old TV was the first chore and it came out pretty easy but those old TV's sure are heavy! I got the new bracket and TV unpacked and started doing some measuring so I got everything at the correct height. The brackets are fairly universal and come with a ton of screws and spacers to fit about every TV out there. The hardest part is figuring out just which screws works for your TV and whether or not you need the spacers. With all that figured out I got to drilling and screwing. Not a real comfortable thing to be doing on someone else motor home! :-o
I got the bracket mounted, found the correct screws for their TV and mounted the TV onto the bracket. All done and looks great! Well, I thought we were done until Rudee said "what about this thing?" and held up the wooden fascia that fills the gap in the TV cabinet. Crap! I took the TV back off the bracket, re-installed the fascia and then put the TV back in place. Oh well, even the professionals have an "oops" every once in awhile. :-)
That brings me to our plans for the rest of the week. Larry and Sue invited us on a small trip with them to the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.  We left Thursday morning shortly after they picked up their new car. Wow, these guys know how to make you feel like your traveling in style! The area we were traveling to had a lot of ice and even some snow the day before but the temps had risen and the sun was shining so we figured we would have smooth sailing ....... wrong! Seems like they had closed I-10 from Tallahassee, Florida to the Alabama line and were not in any big hurry to open it up. They were diverting traffic onto US 90 but it was a standstill. Luckily there was an exit off the interstate right where the back up started to get onto US 90 (still 7 miles up the road!) and we headed off into the Florida countryside to find a way West. We made our way south and then headed west on SR 20 which took us parallel to US 90. The road was only two lanes and did a little twisting and turning but at least we were moving. We also got to see a little more of the Florida panhandle then you can see by staying on the "super slab". We finally started hearing reports that the roads were being opened around Pensacola and we were able to hop back on the "big road" there. Our little detour of around 180 miles cost us a bunch of time and we didn't arrive at the resort until after 8 pm. We were all tired and hungry but happy to finally be there.
Our room was on the 23rd floor and was fantastic!

We are up there somewhere!
The casino sits right on the beach and has been totally rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. This area took a direct hit and was virtually wiped out. There are miles of empty lots, all facing the beach, that once held beautiful homes, restaurants and other business'. The casinos have all rebuilt and the area is revitalizing but after so much destruction it will take a long time. Driving around town you can't help but feel a little sad for what once was and is now gone, not to mention the lives lost. Prior to Katrina Biloxi was the third largest city in Mississippi and immediately dropped to fifth largest due the casualties caused by the storm.
The main attraction right now in Biloxi are the casinos. We spent time in several of them and really enjoyed ourselves. We didn't win any big jackpots but had a great time nonetheless. Thanks, Sue and Larry for inviting us!

The weather the last couple of days has started to feel more like Florida with temps in the upper 70's and lows in the low 60's. Perfect! I am even planning on wearing my shorts to the golf course tomorrow. Now that's something I have been looking forward too! I'll keep you posted.