Right after we returned from our wonderful vacation, we got the call. Another gate guard company was to take over our gate, the one we had worked at for just about two weeks shy of a year. We did what we said we would NOT do. We moved closer to the border. We are now south of Laredo, just outside the Laredo City Limits, and east of Rio Bravo and El Cenizo.
Yes, we're leaving Sunday afternoon for a week, going on another cruise. For our 25th anniversary, several years ago, we went on a Fun Jet all inclusive vacation to Cancun for a week. IT WAS A BLAST!!!!! We really wanted to do another Fun Jet all inclusive vacation, but when you compare the cost of that versus the cost of a cruise, it's amazing. We can take 3 cruises for the same amount of money, so that's what we decided to do for now, another cruise. It's a five night cruise and we'll be docking in Progreso, Mexico and Cancun, Mexico. Some friends who are licensed gate guards will be staying in our RV and filling in for us. We'll leave tomorrow and drive to Galveston where the Carnival Ship docks.
There's not much happening on the ranch currently, we still have the drillers here. They are working on their 8th hole and then they'll move over to a new pad that is being constructed, and drill some more holes. We have been told that the fracking of the 8 drilled holes won't start until next year, which gives us something to look forward to . . . NOT.
So keep your fingers crossed that we'll have good weather and I'll post again when we return. Until then, Bon Voyage!
I find that I need to talk a little bit more about the subject of illegals in the area. We have all been seeing and hearing on the news and on social media about the problem with the influx of illegals coming over the border from Mexico, and not only from Mexico but from other Central American countries. While we personally have not been seeing more illegals, other gate guards have. Some not far from us and other gate guards several hundred miles east of us have had large groups showing up, in varying conditions. We are not seeing any more now than we were 3 years ago, but currently we are not located near a row of power lines or near railroad tracks, which I was told by Border Patrol that the illegals follow. We are right off a highway and we do see many Border Patrol agents and BP vehicles daily. I can't say the area is safe, you just have to use your best judgment and do what feels right for you. I know that some gate guards have quit after illegals showed up at their gate.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE 24/7 SHIFTS AND HOW PHYSICAL IS THE JOB?
There is no heavy lifting, that's for sure. But, depending on how much gate traffic you have, you will be doing a lot of climbing up and down the stairs and in and out of the RV. In most places the terrain is not very even, there are rocks and stumps and so forth. This is certainly not a good job for anyone with knee problems or mobility problems, since the ability to get quickly to the gate is imperative. As for the shift, some people think that my husband and I never get to see each other which is quite false. David usually sleeps from about 5 p.m. till about 12 or 1 a.m. I usually go to bed around 2 a.m. and get up around 10 or 11 a.m., so we spend about 8 hours a day together, which is more time than we spent together when we were working 8 to 5 jobs. During the hot part of the day (and it's been HOT lately, I think it was 107 degrees here today) we take turns logging the traffic. If our gate is really busy one of us stays outside and the other relieves after about 15 or 20 minutes. That's what works best for us, but everyone does it differently.
Why are so many Gate Guard Companies advertising on the different RV job forums?
Because the oil business down here is BOOMING and it's so HOT and dry during the summer that most people leave and head north to either work or play for the summer. It's been over 100 degrees about every day for at least a month. The first day we had 100 degree temperatures was back in April, believe it or not, but then it cooled down some. If your gate is busy, it really is very miserable down here in the summer. But the summer is the best time to get on with a company and get a gate. Come fall everyone will be down here wanting a job.
Do you have any problems with the illegals?
Problems? No. Encounters? Yes. The Eagle Ford Shale is a pretty big area, so some gates are near the border and some are not. This is our second gate near the border and we have encountered several illegals over the past 3 plus years. They want water and food. Some want you to call Border Patrol and some don't, but we always call Border Patrol and we always give them food and water. I carry a small container of Mace brand pepper spray in my pocket and keep a can of wasp spray just inside the RV door. I keep the door locked at night and make sure I see headlights before I unlock and go outside at night.
Which is the best Gate Guard Company?
The best gate guard company is the one that has a gate available when you want one. You need to decide if you want to be an employee or contractor for tax purposes and then go from there and find out what they supply and how much they pay. The pretty much all supply the same things, i.e., generator, fuel, non-potable water, lighting, alarms. Some companies require you to provide the lighting and alarms. Some companies require the use of an Ipad for logging the traffic in and out. Some offer direct deposit and some do not. If you go to the "Introduction to Gate Guarding" tab, I have listed a number of different companies there. Print it off and go through and visit their website or call or email them and find out what they have to offer. Some require you to wear uniforms and boots and some do not.
Here's a couple photos of a teeny tiny Texas Horned Lizard I found the other evening when I was out walking. He's the same color as the dirt road, so it's amazing that I even saw him. You can see how little it is compared to David's hand, photo above, and my hand, photo below.
Pictured below is what he'll probably grow up to look like. The Texas Horned Lizard pictured below is one that our Grandson Caleb caught last summer when he was visiting. I think they are adorable. They are a protected species and it's a violation of Federal Law to even take them into your home.
Yep, we're still here, west of Catarina, been on this same ranch since October of 2013, and yep, it's still hot. Some nights it's still 99 degrees at 8 o'clock at night And it's still windy and dusty. We still have a drilling rig in, coil tubing and flow back and . . . . same stuff, different day. Next month marks 3 years of gate guarding in South Texas.
Back in 2008 when we were planning to run away from home and trying to find out all we needed to know about full time RV'ing, we knew we needed a surge protector so we have always used one. Recently, due to so many horror stories about generators burning up appliances (and not just generators, some RV Park electrical systems as well) we decided to upgrade to this bad boy, pictured above. It's an Electrical Management System by Progressive Industries. It wasn't cheap, at $350.00, but it sure is cheaper than having to replace all our electrical appliances.
In the photo of our set up, pictured earlier, you can see our canopy tent. This scissor tail fly catcher built this nest in the small mesquite tree right above our canopy, so we have been able to watch the birds sit on the nest and feed the babies.
We have signed up for another cruise, this one a 5 night cruise in September, so that gives us something to look forward to on these HOT days.
I want to add a cautionary note. A number of Gate Guard Companies are advertising for help because everyone in their right mind went north for the summer. A couple of years ago one of the gate guard companies made their employees sign an NDA or Non Disclosure Agreement. It seems that someone was blogging about gate guarding and giving actual production numbers and close up photos of the drilling rig and bad mouthing an oil company. Several bloggers had to take their site down. If you are a blogger and a gate guard, please be aware of the unwritten rules which are don't give out too much information, please.
Our RV is a 2005 that we purchased in Florida in 2010, so it's 9 years old and in need of repairs . . . all the time it seems like. I mentioned in the last post that we had ordered a solar powered refrigerator fan to help keep a good temperature in the refrigerator when the temperatures reach 100 + degrees. David installed it, per the suggestions in the reviews, as low as he could get it. That wasn't working well so David Burkhart, of DCB Solutions RV Repair, 254-562-5513, suggested he raise the fan to about as high as we could get it, in order to create a vacuum. Having done that, it seems to be working well. Because it is solar powered and only runs during daylight hours, we may end up installing a "round the clock" fan if this one does not do the trick. We shall have to wait and see. So far, so good, but the temperatures have been mild so far.
The sewer vent fan was really easy to install and is secured with a screw, so it does not need to be removed when we travel and it also seems to be working well.
In October of 2012 we moved to a gate about 22 miles west of Pearsall. That's where the bees attacked our slide seals/slide sweeps and absolutely ate holes in them and chewed them up. David contacted the Crossroads Factory to obtain replacement parts and they were no help at all, but they did refer him to Tiara RV Center. Tiara was very helpful and we were able to order the parts from them, who in turn ordered the parts from the Crossroads Factory!!! I guess there just has to be a middle man! The hardest part was figuring out the right parts, as there are so many different slide seal/slide sweep configurations. Ours are the two piece variety. Anyway, $572.00 later we received the replacement parts and David is in the process of installing them. They're actually very easy to install, the ones on the side are screwed in but the ones on the top are stapled in, so he needs to go to the hardware store for more screws. Once installed they need to be caulked along the edge.
Something was leaking as there was a pool of water on the ground under the RV, a few feet back of the stairs. It would dry up during the day and then appear again the next morning. David was convinced it was the shower leaking, however, after taking the shower completely apart, taking the door and walls down and sealing a small crack and then putting it back together and re-caulking, the pool of water still appeared each morning. David finally discovered it was actually from a very small little hole in the water heater tank around the heating element. For a tiny little hole it sure was leaking a lot of water into the basement and onto the ground. Since you can't buy just the tank, but have to buy the entire water heater at a cost of $600, the two David's used J.B. Weld and patched the hole. The hard part was getting it re-wired the next day after it dried completely, but that was finally accomplished.
Our gate isn't busy currently, but they are due to drill about 8 new holes and should be here to do that in a week or two, so we are taking advantage of the slow to
Next on the list of repairs:
Bathroom sink faucet is leaking and needs replaced;
4 of the ladder steps (actually the little plastic end pieces) are broken and need replaced, if we can ever find the needed parts (no luck so far);
Grey water tank valve cables need replaced and those parts are on order;
The underskirting needs replaced and we are looking at different options;
The dining room floor needs replaced (not a small task).
Now we just need to win the Lottery!!!
On Sunday our thermometer read 103 degrees in the shade. One of the drivers who came in said his truck was reading 106 degrees and on the news they reported that it was 109 degrees in Laredo, just south of us. And it's not even summer yet! When it gets that hot our poor refrigerator just can't keep up, even with the small battery powered fan that stays in the fridge to distribute the cold air. The refrigerator thermometer was reading in the danger zone at about 45 degrees and we really don't want to run it on propane all summer, so we ordered a Camco 42165 Refrigerator Solar Roof Vent System ($79.98) from Amazon.com. The solar panel powers a fan that draws the hot air from behind the refrigerator. David's had his eye on it for a while (some good and some not so good reviews) and he finally bit the bullet and ordered one. In the meantime we are freezing bottles of water and putting them in the refrigerator and David made a temporary makeshift shade using the ladder and a tarp, since the refrigerator is on the side of the RV that gets full sun all day.
While he was at it he also ordered a Camco 40595 Cyclone Sewer Plumbing Vent ($16.38 through Amazon.com). It uses the power of the wind to draw holding tank odors out of the RV, rotating 360 degrees to follow the wind. It says it attaches easily to any RV plumbing vent and doesn't require any drilling into the roof. Some gate guard friends have one and they said it works well.
While I'm at it let me mention what we ordered from Amazon.com and received a while back and REALLY love. It's the Oxygenics 52333 Power Massage Hand Held Showerhead ($42.65). Why do we love it so much? It provides LOTS more water pressure while using 30% less water. Another gate guard friend has one and she loves hers. It's one of those things that, after using it for a while, you don't know how you got along without it before.
Sorry if this post sounds like a plug for Amazon.com, but we sure do rely on them when we need items that we can't get way out here in the oil patch. Later.
I just found out that my "subscribe" feature on this blog is apparently not working correctly. I am no computer geek, but something to do with "bots" and "ping" and "style". All that is Greek to me, so if you are a subscriber and not getting the posts, I apologize and hope it will fix itself. Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you don't know how to fix something? Give it time to fix itself and if that doesn't work, I'll try to learn some Greek.
In other news we have scheduled a Men's Carrizo Springs Lunch for Wednesday, May 14th at 11:00 a.m. at Lee's Steakhouse in Carrizo Springs (across the street from the baby Wal-Mart. If there is an interest we'll plan on having one each month, on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.
Do you ever look at images while on the internet? You know, you put in, for example, "Lee's Steakhouse" and click on "images"? Well I did that, quite by accident, (I was looking to see if they have a menu on-line) and, among other things, up came this picture, (above). I looked at it and then at the bottom of the picture it said, "www.WanderingWendels.com". That's when it dawned on me that was a photo that I had taken a couple of years ago and posted in my blog. NOW I know where those images come from, they come from photos, etc., that people post on the internet, for example, on their blogs. I was told a few years ago that any photo found under "images" on the internet is okay to use in a blog post and I wonder if that is true. Anyway, I found that interesting.
Why is the type on this blog post so small, when I usually use a larger font? From the little bit of information that I have been able to glean about my blog subscription problems, it may have something to do with the size of font I used. So, in a sense, this is a test, first of all, to see if it has any influence on whether or not any subscribers receive this post, and second, to check how good your vision is. So please let me know. Goodnight all.
Our gate traffic has slowed down and we're sure not complaining about that. The wells have been drilled, worked over and fracked. All 3 flowback crews are gone. The tankers are still hauling salt water out, but not as many tankers now as before. We're not sure what's going to happen here next, we're guessing more drilling. In the meantime this slow down gave us time to get some needed repairs and preventative maintenance done on the RV. David purchased the Dicor products and, with the help of the local RV Repair Guru, got several coats of roofing applied. This South Texas sun can be pretty hard on the RV, but hopefully this won't need to be done for another 5 years, since they got several coats of good quality roofing on it and did the necessary prep work.
Here is David Burkhart's card and we give him the highest recommendations for not only his work but his work ethics and his fair billing practices. Part of the time I think he stays over by Dilley, so he's not too far away. He's going to come back another day and work on some other of our RV issues. They seem to never end.
I've been busily baking brownies and cookies to pass out to the drivers who have to work this Easter weekend. I mended four pairs of blue jeans for one of the guys who works on the ranch. David and I cleaned out the closet today. UGH. Not something anyone looks forward to, especially on Easter, but we are taking advantage of the slow down in traffic. Not much else going on here right now. The only wildlife we see is mostly rabbits, Mexican Ground Squirrel, rattlesnakes (we've had two already this year), scorpions and BUGS!
Here's some more wildlife, this photo is from our April Gate Guard lunch in Carrizo Springs. We meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month and we sure have a good time!
Happy Easter to you and yours from the Wandering Wendels.