Another possibility are dish draining mats. These are also small and if they can handle dishes they can certainly handle feet.
Need something to cover that cold, slippery vinyl floor in your small RV bathroom but not finding anything that size? A couple of items work very well for this. Personally, I use a carpet sample. Carpet samples seem to be just the right size and I like the feel of stepping out of the shower on to carpet. The samples are easy to shake outside and hand clean if necessary. I have used them in two trailers now. You can find them in some RV stores, hardware stores, and of course carpet stores. One of the stores on Main Street in Quartzsite had some one year I was there.
Another possibility are dish draining mats. These are also small and if they can handle dishes they can certainly handle feet.
The hottest time in Texas and hardest to be working is in August. With temps over 100 every day, it is very hard to stay cool even inside an RV. There is only so much air conditioners can do and if you have to work outside it is just miserable. Everyone should take a vacation in August in Texas. While I couldn’t get my usual full week off work, I was able to get 5 days off to run back up to my favorite place, New Braunfels, where my favorite waterpark, Schlitterbahn, is. I bought a yearly pass at the end of the summer season last year which was also good for all of this year so I had to get more use out of it and more bang for my buck.
Once my relief guard showed up to take over my shift on the gate and stay in my RV, I was off to the Motel 8 in Seguin, TX just a few miles east of New Braunfels. I found a better deal staying over there and the motel was excellent. The room was very comfy. It had plenty of TV channels, a wonderful recliner for the evenings, good shower/bath, very nice and helpful staff, and a free breakfast of waffles, muffins, cereal, bananas, juice, and coffee. It is also located next to McDonald’s and a BBQ place with a Whataburger across the street and Wal-Mart just a few miles away. I would stay there again. That night, I tried to go to bed but couldn’t sleep long since I had been working night shift for over a month. At 4 am I got very hungry so I went over to the Whataburger for breakfast. It was surprisingly very good. Finally, I got tired enough to sleep more.
I decided to get most of my shopping out of the way the first day. My job in rural Texas doesn’t give me much time for shopping so I keep a list of things to buy when I get near a big city. After a quick stop at Game Stop to score a used balance board cheap for my WII, I hit Wal-Mart to return some items and pick up others. Then it was off to Camping World to replace a ladder rack my support people lost when they moved my RV while I was on a cruise in April. I was a good girl and managed to get out of there for less than $100 which is very hard for an RVer. I still looked all over but kept my cool. Next, I zoomed down the highway to the Costco in Selma, Texas. I had purchased a membership through LivingSocial.com In February which was running a great deal that included a $20 gift card and a bunch of coupons. Unfortunately, I rarely get near a big city and Costco and was unable to redeem my membership purchase until now. The coupons were already expired but they were very nice and gave me the gift card still after signing me up. The store there is smaller than others I have been in years ago but I managed to find some needed items there. The grocery section looks to be a good size. They also serve the usual hot dogs and pizza there. It was getting late so to end the day I went to Golden Corral for dinner. Yum! It was delicious! I got back late to the motel. I watched some TV and eventually went to bed.
Time for fun at Schlitterbahn! Since I got there late, the parking was pretty full but they have lots of parking lots all over and eventually I found a spot. The nice parking attendant even encouraged me to take two spots due to the size of my dually truck. Never had that happen before. Going on a Saturday in summer turned out to be a big mistake. With kids out of school and parents off work, it was way too crowded. All the slides had hours long waits. Even the main pool was pretty crowded. I hopped on the tram to the newer park in hopes of shorter lines due to the types of water rides over there. The Falls ride which is a continuous loop lazy river with some whitewater action thrown in now had a line which it didn’t have last September when I was there. The line moved fairly fast at least. Unfortunately, due to the crowd, you only got one ride around then they made you get out at the stop just upstream. It felt really good and cooling though. I went over to the wave pool and roaring river which was still a free-for-all and spent much of my time there going around and around as a wave machine made it interesting. I got out just long enough to enjoy a smoked turkey leg and drink then waded back in for the rest of the afternoon though I did get another ride on The Falls before I boarded the tram again back to the old park and my truck. Even as crowded as it was, I had fun that day. On the way back to the motel, I found the local Harbor Freight for more shopping fun.
The next day, back to Schlitterbahn again. I managed to go to bed earlier so I got to the waterpark earlier and got a closer spot to park. I spent a lot more time in the old park this time as the crowd was much better. The tourists had gone home (dang those tourists!) so it was just locals that day. Unlike last September, this time the biggest lazy river ride was not blocked off at the end and dropped me into the Comal River for a little river tubing experience. That was awesome! They have their own private canal. Another ride dropped me into a chute that runs quite a long way next to the river and sort of in it. That was also a lot of fun. I opted to wait in line for the Hilltop Slide with a fun group of people. When we got to the part of the line that runs next to the slide, we kept splashing water on the people below us and once we got on the ride, we splashed them again as we went by. I had forgotten how fast that ride is and failed to take my hat off on it so I lost it in some whitewater. I had to go buy a Schlitterbahn hat to finish out the day in the sun. Oh well. It goes well with my Schlitterbahn T-shirt and towel. Yes, I LOVE Schlitterbahn!
On my last day to play before going home, I drove up to San Marcos a few miles north to see Dick’s Car Museum. I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it would just be old cars with signs about where he got them or boring stats. Boy, was I wrong! It was a wonderful museum with some great cars and signs that provided one heck of an education on the history of automobile manufacturers. I learned a lot that I never knew and it was fascinating. I found out John Travolta hadn’t made up the words Ultramatic , Hydramatic, and other words he used in a song in the movie, “Grease”. Those things really did exist at the time. I saw convertible hard tops that stored in the trunk. I saw the first car to have reclining seats. It was meant to be used for couples to go camping. Instead, it quickly became the favorite car of horny teenagers. LOL. I also learned that seat belts had been invented long before they were used in cars but manufacturers were afraid they sent a message that their cars were unsafe so they didn’t include them until safety became a selling point.
My next stop was the Lions Club Tube Rental place on the San Marcos River. For $10 they provide a tube with or without a bottom and pick you up an hour or more later down river at the waterfalls. Tubing the many rivers in Texas is very popular and big business. As usual for me, rain threatened but I went anyway. It was a very nice float with plenty of other people tubing to keep me company. At the waterfalls, you can get out and catch a ride back as I did, or you can go over the small waterfalls and get out farther down then walk back up the side trail for a ride. I would have loved to go over the falls but didn’t have the time. Happily, just as I got in the bus to go back, it started to rain. Nyah nyah! Beat it this time!
Knowing I would be coming to San Marcos, I had previously purchased a gift certificate on restaurant.com to try an Italian restaurant out for dinner. I went to the Italian Garden and got $25 worth of food for $10.50 total. I bought two meals and had them put one in a doggy bag to take back to the motel for the next day. The food was excellent and so was the service. I will definitely eat there again. While eating, I noticed the waitresses constantly checking out the TV above me and looking dismayed. I finally asked them what was going on and learned that Robin Williams had died. I remember where I was when John Kennedy was killed and I’ll always remember this moment too. We’ll miss you, Robin. Goodbye.
On the way back to the motel, I spotted a Buc-ee’s. I had no idea what it was exactly but it seems to be a big deal here in Texas and has 4 times as many gas pumps as any station I have ever seen, maybe more. The building with them is the size of a department store rather than a gas station. I decided it was time to kill the Kat’s curiosity. Outside were dozens of ice vaults hawking very cheap ice. Inside I found my new river tube and walls and racks loaded with nothing but candy. There was clothing, toys, a deli, BBQ stuff, the usual tourist items, and lots of Buc-ee branded items. It is like the most super-sized gas station and convenience store you can imagine. Now you know.
Vacation went far too fast as always. The next day I had to go back to my RV and work. I dropped by Schlitterbahn to cool off a bit before the long drive home and cash out my Splash Card. Splash cards are like debit cards. They give it to you free with a lanyard to wear and you put money on it to use around the waterpark instead of constantly going to your locker for your wallet. I also took a chance and inquired at the lost and found desk about my hat I lost. I knew the waterslide I lost it on emptied into the main pool so I figured I had a chance. Sure enough, they found it! Hat in hand, I hopped in my truck and headed home.
For more pics of Schlitterbahn click here.
For more pics of Lion’s Club/San Marcos River tubing and Dick’s Car Museum click here.
After my cruise back in April, I returned to the same gate. It was an odd time due to us being released from the gate while I was on the cruise and my 5th wheel ordered off the property. One of the support guys and the young fellow that was covering for me had to take everything in and close the trailer up per detailed instructions I left for them on how to do that in case this happened. My trailer was moved somewhere though I don’t know where. There was minor damage done to the trailer, something lost, some small things broken. There is always a chance of being released while on vacation which is one of the cons of gate guarding and of allowing someone else to stay in your RV. If you pull your RV off the gate for vacation, you have to wait for a new gate when you get back which can be awhile during the cooler months when there are more guards than gates. When I was ready to find my trailer and go back to work on another gate, we got recalled to the same gate again on the Calvert Ranch so back I went. The trailer had been moved for only a day (maybe less) before it was recalled. That’s the strange way the oil patch works.
I liked the Calvert Ranch. It was my second gate with cows. Cows are fun to watch and like to keep you on your toes. These cows were not at all afraid of me and were a bit mischievous. At any time I might step out and find my RV and truck surrounded by them. I had to watch out for them possibly trying to stomp or eat my electrical and water connections. If you leave your vehicle windows down, you may find your seat headrest eaten when you get back. More than once I saw a cow look at an approaching vehicle, purposely step out in front of it, and stand there smiling as they blocked traffic. Cows are not dumb by any means. Every day they came by and mooed at the other cows in the next pasture. The chatting would go on for quite awhile. One day, there was a lot of fun going in in the next pasture where all the calves and younger cows were playing. One of my cows decided he wanted in on that and went right through the wire fence at a point where the upper wire was sagging. Another day, the sun was shining and everything had turned green. The very short Spring down here had sprung. The cows were all trying to mount each other and I don’t just mean males on females. LOL. It was fun to watch. Gate guards get lots of entertainment from both the ranch animals and other local animals like road runners, turtles, coyotes, strays, etc.
Clouds, sunsets, and the moon also provide entertainment. Texas has great clouds. We often spend time looking up to see what shapes are in the sky today. I have seen ducks, rabbits, Mickey Mouse, naval ships, the starship Enterprise, and once a Klingon warship. EEK! We take pictures of the sunsets and moon to share on our Facebook group with each other in sort of a nightly competition. In some ways, we are like the angels on the beach at sunset or those who gather at the marina in Key West, FL. at dusk to share a heavenly experience. I like to take pictures of birds, wildflowers, trees, and cactus too.
Once a month we have separate luncheons for men and women (time away from working 24 hours a day with your spouse). I normally can’t attend them but had the chance to go to two of them while doing a 12 hr. guard job. Aside from the good food and not having to cook for a change, it’s good to talk to others who do the same job and live the same lifestyle. I got some good tips at the luncheons I attended and made some new friends. It’s always good to be able to put a face with the names I always see on Facebook.
Sometimes caterers come in to feed the crews. If a guard is lucky, they MAY get one of the catered meals after everyone else is fed. I have had gates with no catering, catering that made no effort to set aside a meal for me, and catering that almost always had a meal for me too. You learn to recognize them coming in but not to count on them. Quite often they come back out the gate very late so you are better off eating at a normal time and saving anything you get from them till tomorrow for lunch. Sometimes you get steak! One caterer seemed to only know how to cook pork. It was good but not day after day. My favorite was breaded catfish and shrimp with coleslaw.
I like to get to know the rancher and his/her family a bit if possible. It’s fun waving them in and chatting with them. I have made food for them on occasion and they sometimes bring me something special like the three plates of BBQ and desserts the wonderful family at the Calvert Ranch brought me on Easter this year.
It’s also fun decorating our gates for the holidays or wearing something goofy any time to make the oil workers smile. I like to give out cups of popcorn, slices of cake, candy, or muffins now and then.
Gates can go from good to bad to good in the blink of an eye depending on what activity is going on. There are various stages of work to go through before a well goes into production and even after that there can be high traffic for awhile. Sometimes we sit there waiting for work to start. That can go on for months! Traffic is minimal then with only planners and company men coming in. It increases a little when crews come in to get things ready to start. It increases a lot when the gravel trucks start rolling in to build the worksite or pad up. Texas is one big mud hole when it rains so lots of gravel is needed. Then the rig, crews, and all that is needed to support them is moved in as quickly as possible. Some crew will live onsite in trailers and bunkhouses. Office trailers are moved in too. As soon as everything is setup, it slows down to a nice rhythm. They may drill one hole or several holes. Eventually they finish drilling and they haul everything back out as fast as possible. Busy, busy, busy again. We may get a break in traffic days, weeks, or even months before the next phase starts or it may start immediately. Schedules here change all the time and you never know when you will be woken up in the night as the next crew and equipment move in or you get released, have to be out in 2 hours, and are out of work until the next gate. If they drop a tool down the well, things could come to a stop for awhile until they fish it out so traffic eases up while they fish. If there is a problem with the next site on the schedule, they may skip it and show up at your gate without warning to work your pad instead.
How hard a gate is also depends on many other things such as traffic, weather, whether you have to open and close the gate in between vehicles and if that is 24 hours or just at night. Working in pouring rain, mud, and 100+ temps sucks! Some gates are only open for 12 hours then you can close them and leave for awhile, some are shared with another guard so that each does 12 hours and then can leave if they want, some are active for only 12 hours but you must be there for 24 hours, and some are active 24 hours a day. Most involve living onsite in your RV at the gate with full utilities provided via a support trailer. Some now have guard shacks you have to drive to while living offsite and others require working out of your vehicle for 12 hours at a time day in and day out. YUCK! I’m currently on a gate where all I have to do is open my door and wave at them while watching to make sure they don’t hit my gate. Another guard at the entrance gate up the road logs them in and out. Thank goodness because the outside temp is 100 degrees.
That’s all a part of gate guarding!
One thing RVers miss from home is a laundry line. Even if you don’t have a washer/dryer in your rig, occasionally you may need to wash out something in the sink, dry pool towels, etc. It’s nice to have a laundry line then but most campgrounds prohibit stringing one between trees. A few very snooty campgrounds forbid ALL outside laundry so be sure to check the rules. What to do then for the many campgrounds that allow racks? Camping World sells one that folds in and out and mounts on the RV or RV ladder. They also sell a bumper mount one and one that free stands outside or in the shower. Those are all good options.
For those of us that like to make our own, PVC pipes and fittings make building a laundry rack very easy. You can glue it all together permanently or glue only where absolutely necessary and leave the rest loose to break it down and store it. You can make it any size you like. In my travels, I have seen many different designs and studied them. Here are a few I saw:
If you have a hankering to make one for yourself, here are some specific plans I found on how to make a PVC ladder rack. Click here.
I have finally joined the smartphone crowd. I have been putting it off for some time due to the cost of plans for them which frankly is obscene. How does anyone justify $130 a month just for a phone?! The cost of satellite TV is bad enough but then they hit you with that for a phone. OUCH! To add insult to injury, they charge for a plan then they charge to have a phone on the plan which, umm, is completely useless without a phone. Then they limit the plans severely so you can’t fully enjoy your phone without paying even more money out. They advertise hard and induce you to use smart phones for all kinds of things then they whine that you use it too much. What a great con these major rip-off artists are running!
It took me two years of searching through plans and patiently waiting for the right plan, right coverage, and right phone to come together. I made one slight misstep along the way with a Trac Phone. While they do have some decent phones, I for one won’t pay $500 for a PHONE no matter what it does. That is too much money to risk on something in my pocket every day. Phones tend to jump out of your hand to commit suicide on rocks, in any nearby water, etc. I bought one of their cheaper “sort of smart” LG phones only to find there aren’t any apps available for it in an app store though you can find a few java apps here and there to manually add to the phone. The plan cost was very cheap which I liked and it did allow me to browse the web in stores to research items, browse the web when I needed to find some place, and send email and texts for work. Don’t get me wrong. I do like the phone and the browsing but I wanted the apps too. If you don’t need apps, Trac Phone has great coverage on Verizon or AT&T depending on the model and it is very inexpensive with easy top up online or excellent automatic monthly top up. Mine also came with triple purchased minutes so that I had plenty of minutes for only $21 a month. Now that is what a phone plan ought to cost! The phone itself was only $99.
So why the need for apps? I’m a geocacher and there is an app for that so I can find geocaches anytime anywhere without having to load up my GPS with locations before I leave home. I travel a lot and need to be able to find campgrounds, overnight boondocking spots, and interesting places to visit on the go. I read only eBooks these days and don’t always have my Kindle with me but do always have my phone. I’m studying Spanish free through an online site and find it easier to study on my phone. I have friends and family I keep in touch with through social sites which have apps for that. I need to be able to find the cheapest gas in areas I am unfamiliar with. I have an app that turns my phone into a flashlight when needed. I can record any situations I get into for documentation or safety including a cop stop. There are many other things in my life that apps accommodate and then there is the fact I am working on an app of my own for one of my other websites and need to be able to test it.
My new phone is a Motorola Moto G true Android smartphone with Consumer Cellular. Consumer Cellular has always had good plans and very good coverage nearly everywhere I have traveled with a plain jane phone of theirs. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much in the way of smart phones until they recently added the Moto G to their line and it is awesome! Not only does it do browsing and all the apps I need, it also is a decent size for reading books, plays mp3s, has GPS, has decent battery life, plays games, the sound quality is very good, it supports Square for taking credit card payments, supports Bluetooth, takes decent pictures and has a flash, makes movies and automatically uploads them, does Wi-Fi, and it takes voice commands. WOW! That is a whole lot of functionality in a $150 phone. On top of that, it allows me to set a limit on data so it shuts down automatically and notifies me before I go over. I can bypass it if I choose to, usually after I change my plan to finish out that month. Rather than wait for the phone to be mailed to me, I went to the nearest Sears store to pick it up then called Consumer Cellular to activate it. If you have a phone already which uses a sim card, you can just buy a new sim card from them to use their service.
Consumer Cellular plans also shine. First, there is no commitment. You pay them a $25 activation fee and that is the end of your commitment. No flipping 2 years to worry about. While you must choose your initial plans, you are allowed to change them up and down at any time before the month ends to save money and they send you notices when you use 80% and 100% so you can change your plan rather than incur overage charges. Their talk minutes plans are separate from their data and text plans so you can signup for exactly what you need and change them separately as needed. It’s not as cheap as Trac Phone but it is still much cheaper than the other big name companies. I’m paying between $50-$60 a month depending on how much I talk or use data. They also let you share with other family members for only $10 per additional line. To make the deal even sweeter, I gave them my AARP number which gets me a nice little discount every month.
I think having a smart phone along when traveling can be very helpful for RVers. There are many RVer and tourist specific apps as well as common apps we would use. Most apps are either free or less than$10. You can scan your multiple grocery reward cards with an app to use instead of the bulky cards. You can get coupon codes delivered to your phone. You can reserve a Red Box movie with it and save on rentals with special codes texted to you. You can shop online or get more info in box stores on products by scanning QR codes with it. You can reserve a campsite over the Internet with your phone. If you get in an accident, your insurance company app can help you file a report and get help. A smart phone can save you money and save your arse in many situations and heck, it is a lot of fun. Just don’t get too caught up playing Angry Birds or Hay Day. Both games are very addictive.
As you may have noticed, while searching for America in my travels, I have also sought out the odd roadside attraction. I’m a big fan of the “World’s Greatest, Biggest, Longest, Whatever”. One of my favorite websites and books is Roadside America. To me, it just seems like a crime to pass up a shot to see the “World’s Largest Frying Pan”, “World’s Largest Peanut”, the largest Paul Bunyan statue, the Airstream or Cadillac ranches, the peach tower, a giant tire, a huge ball of string, an elephant you can live in or use as a bar, a castle built from old used newspaper printing plates, etc. There is usually some fascinating history attached to them and some interesting, if not odd or unusual, person behind them. With this in mind, I set out to find Popeye in Crystal City, TX nearby. I found Popeye, twice.
I first saw Popeye a year ago from a distance across from the H-E-B grocery store. He stands in a pavilion built on a spit of open land that divides the main thoroughfare from the side streets and old town stores. At the time, I was too busy to check him out but my curiosity finally got the better of me the other day so I Googled him. Popeye was the result of a contest in 1937. Being the “Spinach Growing Capital of the World”, Crystal City was looking for something to celebrate that and what better than the sailor who gets his strength by eating his spinach every day to promote it. I remember eating spinach as a kid only because Popeye ate it. The statue also honors the creator of Popeye, E.C. Segar who died under mysterious circumstances at only 38 years of age. Ah, but the statue I saw in the pavilion is not the original. It is a decoy. In a stroke of brilliance at a time when vandals and high school rivalries were damaging statues or making them disappear all together, the town had this copy made and put on display in a prominent place to lure them away from the true Popeye statue which stands in front of City Hall located two to three blocks away on a side street. I snapped pictures of both for you below.
Near the “fake” Popeye is a storefront boasting the Spinach Festival. Oh boy! Can’t wait for that!
I also spotted a closed down Popeye Buffet farther away and there is a Popeye Park about a mile away.
Just a few feet from the second Popeye statue pavilion is an old caboose as a reminder of the trains that used to run through town. The caboose door is always open and the city stores some Christmas decorations in it. I went inside it and found the “IYamWhatIYam” geocache hiding in a magnetic key box. Woohoo! I love combining the fun of a roadside attraction with the fun of geocaching! Score!
So that is how I spent my day searching for and finding Popeye in Crystal City, TX several times over.
Like many other jobs, gate guarding has many unique experiences and challenges. Often we are out in the boonies alone working unsupervised 24/7 with the occasional odd situation, storms, ranch animals, bugs, heat, cold, gate runners, sudden schedule changes with accompanying traffic, and so on to spice things up. The best way to survive is to band together to share info on guard companies, new gates available, RV problems, vacation tips, guarding tips, etc. and to get away from spouses for a couple hours while doing something “normal”. Like any other field, networking is essential to success and improves safety when you have the number of someone nearby to call in an emergency. To these ends, we have informal luncheons once a month for both women and men. Occasionally, they will bring the luncheon to a guard that is working alone and can’t otherwise attend.
I got to go to the June ladies luncheon which was held in Carrizo Springs at Miguelitos. Business cards for guards and a good RV repairman were exchanged. The tips offered were plentiful and I met several new people. Many of us only know each other through our Facebook group so this was a great way to see faces and get better acquainted. The food was very good. I highly recommend their taco salad. It’s a very busy restaurant with lots of oilfield workers eating there for lunch along with regular townsfolk.
I had a wonderful time with some great people and hope to get to another luncheon some time. The luncheons really are valuable in many ways.
People always wonder how us full-time RVers manage to make money on the road. There are lots of workamping jobs out there both as temporary and permanent positions not to mention seasonal work. Making money while traveling is entirely doable. Even if you have a pension and/or social security though, now and then you may need some extra bucks. I remember one summer when I was traveling in the northeast and gas was over $4.50 a gallon. Ouch! Add the cost of the numerous toll roads in those parts and you can easily run out of traveling money. You could pull in somewhere for a while and take a regular job or you can hop on the internet to make some fast cash at numerous sites. Most of them will not pay you enough to earn an actual living but they do provide that little bit of extra cash when needed and they can be fun to work with. Here then is a good article on some ways to earn money online fast:
I have done the paid forum posting with a different company than the one mentioned in the link. I enjoyed the work itself. I didn’t enjoy the person running the company I was working with so I didn’t stick with them. Be aware there are a lot of rules involved you must pay heed to and there are very specific time frames. You must be very organized and I found using a calendar like Google Calendar or Lightning for Thunderbird helps to stay on schedule. It is a business and you cannot miss a deadline for any reason.
Another fast cash idea I have done myself is selling at swap meets. I was helping someone sell the contents of his storage shed. If you find something that is in demand and can get it at a wholesale price, this could work for you. Craft work also sells well depending on the venue. DIY devices like an easy satellite dish leveler can sell. Sodas, popcorn, and peanuts always do well if allowed.
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