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Kindle Fire HD Review

I just got a new Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 gig to replace my old Kindle Reader and gosh awful slow cheap tablet. I bought my Kindle Fire at Best Buy so I could try it and a full Android tablet out first. The Fire is a very good compromise between the two devices it is replacing and very fast unlike my previous tablet.

Their app store had my most important productivity apps including Evernote so no problem there. The couple they didn’t have I was able to get by going direct to the website of one to download it and the other I searched a forum and found I could get it through an alternative store at Fire has it’s own app store (which should be used rather than 1Mobile whenever possible) and does not support Google Play since it uses a modified Android operating system. Other apps I only use on my full android smartphone so no need to find and install those.

I love how tied into my Amazon account it is which the other Android tablet I looked at wouldn’t have been. It easily brought in my hundreds of eBooks. Browsing on it is a very nice experience. Playing games on it is fast and addictive. Reading email and Facebook are easier with the bigger screen than on my phone which I usually use. It only has WI-FI, not 3G or 4G, but that works for me since I use a MI-FI device. I had free WI-FI at my motel and was able to use my Prime membership to play music and stream movies for free. With only 36 channels available at the motel, it was nice to be able to watch “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” which played smoothly without a glitch. The Fire also supports Netflix, Hulu, etc. The sound on this thing when playing movies, music, or games is excellent Dolby with two stereo speakers.

It’s a bit heavy like an Ipad, more so than my other devices it is replacing. I like the standard charging port which is much better than the odd port on Ipads. X-Ray for music shows the song lyrics while playing some of my favorite songs which is certainly nice to have. I should see if it knows the words to Louie Louie LOL. It will also show extra info on movies I play.

For those of you who are sometimes visually challenged or often busy, the Kindle Fire HD has text-to-speech and audiobook support. I had it read my newspaper to me this week while I was working. Yes, you can get newspapers and magazines delivered to you anywhere on your Kindle too. Is that cool or what! It can also switch back and forth easily between text and audio without losing your place. The speech is very smooth and distinct.

I do wish it had a camera flash. The cameras are fully useful in good light and for things like Skype and other video chat. Not a deal killer for me since I usually use a good separate camera or my smartphone camera or take most of my pictures outside in daylight anyway. Still, they should consider adding it.

The battery seems to be about average. I have to charge it once or twice a day depending on how much I use it and what I do with it. They claim up to 8 hours depending on usage. It fully charges in under 6 hours using the micro-USB power adapter included. They do sell a faster 9 Watt charger. Mine seems to charge fairly fast.

I highly recommend getting a book about the device. There is no manual with it. I learned from a book some shortcuts and that it could do so much more than what I thought. A few tips I can give you: 1) It does have a caps lock mode. You have to double tap the shift key to access it and disable it. 2) Long press on keys and items to access special menus. This works especially well in the keyboard when typing to access numbers and other characters. 3) Set the rotation to NOT rotate when reading a book. It is an icon on the main navigation menu. Now you can hold your Fire any way you want without it flipping all around on you.

All in all, I am very pleased with my choice though I am still testing it and learning what more it can do. I already checked and found I can maintain my websites and post to my blogs away from home with it which is important to me. I also tested the Square credit card reader on it and found it is supported though I had to get the Square register app elsewhere rather than in the Kindle app store.

The specs:

Quad Core up to 1.5 ghz with 1 GB of RAM
HD Display (1280 x 800)
Fire OS4 (proprietary scaled down Android)
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (including support for Bluetooth keyboards)
Location-based services via Wi-Fi
Two speaker stereo Dolby sound
Front AND rear cameras
Create individual profiles for each user
Time limits app for kids
Web browsing, email, calendar, view and edit Office documents
Share movies, TV shows, etc. with your HDTV via an HDMI adapter (more $$$) or wireless
Free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and Fire photos
Over 33 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, Android apps and games

Many will likely prefer the newer Kindle HDX model which starts at only $20 more with a faster 2.2 gig processor, slightly better screen resolution, lighter weight, and a bit more fine adjustments. Unfortunately, it does not come with a rear facing camera which I wanted. Don’t go for anything less than 16 Gig. Despite unlimited cloud storage, memory on the device does matter. More IS better if you can afford it.

I hope this review of the Kindle Fire HD helps you. If you have never owned an eBook reader or are using one that just does books, you should check out the Kindle Fire. You may find the added functionality can really improve your life. If you travel a lot, it’s a must!

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate and use affiliate links but everything stated here is true to the best of my knowledge and own opinion at the time of this writing. Your mileage may vary depending on what you are looking for in a tablet/reader.

San Antonio Reprieve

I got a couple nights off in San Antonio last week. I had high hopes of doing a lot of tourist stuff but the rain squelched that but good. I did get a nice hot bath for the first time in many months at the motel. I like showers just fine but every now and then you just want to lay around in a bathtub. It felt especially good after I had spent the evening walking around the Riverwalk downtown in the rain for fun. It is such a lovely place to walk in any kind of weather. I started at Rivercenter Mall where I got a delicious Chinese dinner just as good as the first time I ate there years ago. There were a few late tourist boats out but headed to the barn empty. Some of the shops were still open. I scored a couple of fun items and some after-dinner ice cream. There were several others out there walking or sitting so I wasn’t the only fool who didn’t know to come in out of the rain. I had my BFF on the phone while I walked and described it to her. I don’t know if I bored her or not but she hung in there like a true BFF. At one point I managed to get lost but quickly found some signs to point me in the right direction. Watch those crossovers. The Riverwalk is like a maze. I hope you like the pictures I snapped for you.

Chicken-mushroom teriyakiRivercenter Mall and RiverwalkDowntown San Antonio

RiverwalkInside atrium fountain and streamOne of the unique Riverwalk paths

I had to go up to New Braunfels one day for a doctor’s appointment. He was ecstatic about my weight loss and a bit surprised. Heh heh. :-D After that, I did some shopping nearby since I am soooo familiar with New Braunfels now. I got my annual Texas state safety inspection done on my truck. Got some Taco Bell for lunch. Went to Harbor Freight (aaar aaar aaar!) and Best Buy.

I picked up a new Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 gig as a replacement for both my old Kindle and my terrible, cheap tablet. So far, I’m loving it! I’ll post a review of it next.

After a quick stop the next day at another Best Buy closer to my motel for the inevitable must-haves for a new device once you decide to keep it, I headed to TGI Friday’s for lunch. I had spotted it on my truck’s GPS hallelujah! It has been years since I have tasted their delightful Jack Daniel’s sauce, to die for shrimp, or spicy mashed potato goodness. YUM! It’s good to take a break now and then from a diet and I actually didn’t put on any weight from all the eating out. Walking apparently really does work. I took my time enjoying my last meal out for awhile then hopped in the truck and hit the freeway to Pleasanton for groceries then on home to my gate and RV. The water trucks ran all night so I was back to 4-5 hours of sleep again but I have new material for my dreams at least. ;-)

Chowing down at TGI Friday's

The End

Effects Of A Sunny Day

Clean truckThe sun was shining and warm so I decided to put the new valve extensions on my truck tires and air them up. That put me into truck mode and got me to clean the armrests which were bugging me because they were dirty. Well, you know, cleaning a vehicle is like trying to eat only one potato chip. You just can’t stop! The clean armrests highlighted the dirty dashboard. I just HAD to clean the rest of the inside of the truck. That led to finally finishing re-installing the driver door panel that I had pulled off two years ago to replace the window motor. I decided I had been jabbed enough by the screws that were still laying in the ash tray for the door. The panel was on but not screwed down and the paper vapor shield for it was laying behind the seat. With all that done, the ridiculous dirt on my truck from driving in the rain bugged me even more so I whipped out a couple of buckets, a cloth, and my long extendible brush to wash it. I don’t have running water so buckets would have to do. I have been known to run out in the rain to brush my truck down too. LOL. Whew! I finally have a clean, put together vehicle again. The last time I did all that, I got a baby the next morning.  I’ll let you know what happens…

Update: No baby came the next morning. Think I’m safe. But, for all you ladies whose babies are overdue, this worked for me… TWICE!

Saving Money With Credit Cards

I’m back with more info on how full time RVers can save money every day to make the best of their lifestyle by saving on and with credit cards. While the purists will all tell you to dump all credit cards and live on cash only, in the real world you cannot buy a new tow vehicle or RV without a good and recent credit history nor will you be able to rent or buy a house if medical issues or other unforseen circumstances pull you off the road. You need available credit for emergencies out on the road. Even with good insurance, you will have to wait to be reimbursed for expenses so how will you pay for a motel or repair in the meantime? A good cash reserve is certainly a must but a good credit reserve also helps. If you are already in debt, you can still create a plan to pay it off with the help of another credit card at a better rate and a balance transfer if used wisely.

If you are like many others, you got your first credit card many years ago, were just glad anyone considered you worthy, and are still using the same plain Jane credit card. Big mistake! Credit cards evolve. They are highly competitive and offers change all the time. It isn’t just about interest rates anymore. Now they offer 0% interest charges for up to 16 months on balance transfers, new purchases, or both. Moving high debt from old cards with ridiculously high interest rates to a new card with a lower interest rate will help you pay it down faster and save money. If you can pay it off during that introductory 0% interest rate, then you will really save a bunch of money. Be sure to read the terms and be sure they apply your payments to the old debt first or you will need to use the new card for the balance transfer only with no new debt added. Another great thing about new card offers is many now come with extras like insurance coverage when renting a car, flight insurance, added years of warranty protection on items purchased with the card, etc. My favorite is cash back. How would you like 1%-5% cash back on all purchases? How about 6% back on groceries? Would you like to get a special lower price on theater tickets purchased with your card? Most cards also have no yearly fee though that should not be a deal killer. Look at the full offer. No yearly fee and 3% back on groceries compared to a $75 yearly fee and 6% cash back on groceries. How much do you spend on groceries a year? What really makes these deals work to save money is to use the credit card instead of a debit card to pay for your daily necessities but pay the entire bill off every month with no carryover. You may want to get a separate card just for that purpose and with the best rewards deal you can find. Maybe you are a frequent flier. If so, get a card that rewards with sky miles. Do you cruise a lot? There are cards that reward in cruise points. Find a new card that matches your lifestyle.

A card deal that is the best for one person’s situation may be terrible for another’s. A card recommended as best for balance transfers may have some catch such as low initial limits that are hard to get raised. A lower interest card may seem good for balance transfers but is it a good deal if your situation has changed such that you can pay off all debt on a card during a 0% introductory rate term? Do you fly enough to be able to get enough frequent flyer miles for a trip or would cash back on gas be better for you? Read the recommendations on several websites, read the comments on them in discussions, compare the offers, look for the catches, then take your pick and apply. I know it sounds complicated but it isn’t really. The deals are usually pretty clearly spelled out in tables and the reviews and comments help you find the gotchas.

Wondering how to find these great deals if they aren’t just pouring in to your mailbox? There are lots of financial sites out there that evaluate and report on current credit card deals. They also provide links to apply and get an answer within minutes. You can Google "best credit cards" to find them. You should start with The ads on TV may be annoying but they really are free and provide a LOT of information about your credit situation to get started. You may find you have better credit than you thought. You may also find some bill you missed during all your traveling so you can take action to fix the problem and improve your credit. They have a lot of excellent credit articles on their website too which you should take some time to read. Some of the info is surprising. Not everything you "know" about credit is necessarily correct. They will also explain the safe way to apply for another card or cards without killing your credit score and give you your odds of getting approved for each card they recommend. Be sure any card you apply for has a way to pay online since you will be traveling or you may need to setup automatic payment.

A word of caution: do NOT cancel your old credit cards. Doing so will affect your credit score two ways and lower it. Scoring agencies look at how many cards and loans you have which can be both good and bad. They also look at the overall length of time your accounts have been open (longer is better) and the ratio of how much debt you have compared to how much credit is still available. They want to see 10 + year old paid on time accounts. They want to see that while you may be carrying some debt, it is not more than 30% of the total credit available. If you close a credit card with say a $10,000 available limit on it, you just raised your debt ratio way up thus making you look like you are in financial trouble when you aren’t. The same thing happens when you close your older accounts in favor of newer accounts with much less positive credit history. They just plain don’t want to see account closures no matter what the reason for the closure. Be sure to pull the old cards out once in a while and charge something on them then pay it off to keep the cards active or the credit card company may close the accounts themselves to get them off the books.

You should also have more than one card in your wallet. Have you ever been somewhere far away from home and had your card declined at the register, especially around the holidays? I know I have. Credit card companies try to protect us by looking for unusual activity. If they don’t know you just drove 1,000 miles to gawk at a big hole in the ground and see a charge coming in from the Grand Canyon, they may decline the charge. Do they know you are a full time RVer and rarely in your home area? While I personally would never tell them that since it makes them nervous, I do tell them I travel a lot. Around the holidays, security gets even tighter so things they let go before will now get extra scrutiny and action. With another card in your wallet from a different card company, you may still be able to checkout. If both get put on hold, you will need to call the phone numbers on the back of the cards to explain the situation and get cleared but you can do that right from the store on your cell phone. What you tell them is up to you but don’t lie and you may want to give them a special heads up call around the holidays or when cruising out of the country to let them know to expect out of area charges. For cruising, provide specific dates or just go with plenty of cash and use the safes cruise ships provide.

Being on the road, it is real easy to pile up debt on credit cards with the cost of gas, campgrounds, and emergencies. A new lower rate credit card with a balance transfer deal may help. If you have managed to stay out of debt on your cards, are you also making the most of them to save money with cash back reward cards? You should be! Would you throw away all the smaller fish you catch just to wait until you catch that one big fish? Four or five small fish can make a tasty meal just as 1% – 6% cash back all year can make for a mighty nice Christmas present or a free cruise or flight to warmer winter climates.

As part of your fulltime RVing life, credit cards can sink you or help you. You need them at least for that emergency far away from home and to build credit for your next RV purchase but they can also help save on the costs of fulltime RVing if used wisely and you get the right credit card. Sticking with credit cards you have had for years that offer no extra benefits and perhaps higher rates will make your RV life less than it could be.

Saving Money All Year Long

It’s Christmas time and the deals and savings are everywhere. I love this time of year! I actually save several of my “I want” items to buy them at this time of year every year. Oops! There goes your first tip. Know the difference between the “I wants” and the “I needs”. A winter coat that is too small or has holes in it is an “I need”. A winter coat that fits and still looks good even after 20 years is an “I want”. Got it? The “I wants” can usually wait until a good sale comes along so I keep a list of them and save it for the end of the year sales unless another good sale pops up before then. Occasionally I will splurge sooner when I have a good reason but even then there are ways to save money.

There are websites out there that offer special deals of their own, congregate current available store deals, and provide cash rebates. Retail Me Not does the former while does the latter. I haven’t really used Retail Me Not much yet. I get their emails and have found a current store deal through them. The coupons I find in searching them are often out of date because once a coupon goes up, it never comes down off the site. However, you can usually tell if one may work by checking the comments.  I’m not giving up on them yet though. Now definitely saves money with cash rebates they send to you quarterly. I admit, I have lost a lot of money this year because I am so used to going directly to my favorite websites that I forget to login to first and use their link to get to my favorite sites. My New Year’s resolution this year is to remember and use much more. I did save a nice bit of money this season thanks to them. They have a lot of major retailers in their stable including Amazon and Walmart. Keep in mind that rebates may be targeted to specific departments or items rather than being available on everything at a retailer’s site. You need to pay attention to the details. Also, don’t look at it as just a 1% or just a 3% rebate and skip it. Over the period of a year, those add up to some real cool savings and larger purchases add up even faster.

Now don’t bash me for the next one. Yes, I shop Walmart and make no apologies to anyone. In fact, I am an affiliate of them. They are very handy for RVers, they let me stay overnight free once in a while in their parking lots, they stock some RV specific items, and their pharmacies are usually easy to use with online prescription ordering too. Their Site to Store shipping is free and wonderful for us nomads with no street address to ship to. Their latest program, Savings Catcher, has saved me quite a bit of money by scanning my receipts, comparing them to prices at other local merchants, and giving me cash back for the difference in the form of egift cards. One thing to watch out for with them is the prices shown on their website may not match the in-store prices. For instance, I saw an expensive item I wanted online that was $10 more in the store. Their policy on matching their own online prices is iffy at best. So, the next day I ordered the item with Site to Store Shipping and it was available for pickup within an hour. If it hadn’t been so late at night, I would have ordered the item right there using my smart phone and been able to pick it up before leaving.

If you stay in places for a long time, stay at campgrounds that will accept UPS deliveries, or have a mail service that doesn’t charge for handling packages, Amazon can save tons of money with low or competitive prices and Amazon Prime for unlimited free shipping. It costs $99 a year but you can easily get that covered if you order online a lot and they have so much more to offer like free Kindle books, free movies and TV, no extra charge for 2 day shipping, etc. It really is a great deal! That’s how I do my Christmas shopping when I’m stuck on a gate 24/7 for 4 weeks at a time. They will even disguise the packages if you tell them the items are gifts and will deliver direct to the giftee instead of you. I have also found returning an item to them is very easy. I like them so much that I am an affiliate of Amazon also!

Stay with me now. There are many more ways to save!

For the “I want to do” items like taking in a show, going to a dinner theater, touring an attraction, taking in an RV show, parking somewhere for a cruise, and so on I never do any of those things without visiting their website first. You will often find coupons and special offers right on their websites. Check brochure racks everywhere you go too. I get lots of coupons from attraction brochures. I have managed to score discounts for many things this way. I have never paid full price for an RV show and even if a venue doesn’t offer a discount, they may offer a VIP upgrade free. One year I got into Disneyworld free on my birthday just by checking their website. Another time I got two for one tickets to a dinner theater and free VIP upgrades.

Interested in getting your windshield tinted, buying a Costco membership, going to a local event or concert, dining out, etc.? Try Living Social deals. I scored a new Costco membership this way to check them out. The price of the membership was the same as always but they offered $20 cash back and a book of coupons full of freebies and discounts that brought the price down to almost nothing. They also have an app you can use on smart phones when you are away from your rig. I routinely see local services, restaurants, attractions, weekend getaways, and events in the emails they send me. Many I would love to attend if I didn’t work 24/7. Down here in Texas, they have annual 5K walk/runs at night where the sponsor gives you a T shirt and they have machines set up along the route to spray you with fluorescent paint. Now I’m a big fan of fluorescent paint and doing odd things so I will definitely be doing one of those before I leave and I will pay the entry fee at a discount through Living Social. Hit me baby!

For restaurants as I have mentioned before in another post, there is for discount certificates. I like to try a new restaurant now and again so I buy a certificate for one I might like and keep it in my truck. They never expire! I wait until they have a sale of $3-$4 for $10-$25 certificates and then I buy. Usually you are required to buy more than the certificate will cover so I either take a friend and split the leftover cost or I order 2 meals and have one packaged to take back to my rig or motel for later. What is really cool is if you move on and it looks like you will not be back in an area for a long time, you can exchange your certificates on their website for another restaurant instead at no additional cost. I did that this past summer. I’m not planning to be in Yuma, AZ for quite a while so I exchanged the restaurant there for one just north of my favorite local playground here in Texas. I had a wonderful day touring a museum (with a brochure coupon), river tubing (bring your own tube and they only charge for transportation back), and eating dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant where I ordered two different meals to make the minimum required and had a nice dinner for the next night too very cheap.

Do you belong to AARP, Good Sam, Coast to Coast, or another group? Most offer much more than just membership. They also offer discounts at various places.  AARP offers numerous discounts nationwide. Never pay full price at Denny’s, UPS Store, Consumer Cellular, AT&T, and so many more places you are entitled to a discount by showing your card. Good Sam offers discounts in their member benefits section of their website including prescriptions, RV shows, Pilot/Flying J, UPS Store, Sam’s Club, Hertz, Enterprise, Passport America, Camping World, and Disney tickets.They also offer a free 5,000 accidental death policy with membership (must call to activate). Coast to Coast offers all kinds of coupons for dining, hotels, attractions, and car rentals both on their member website.

An excellent way to save as you travel is by using a credit card with cash back rewards. If you don’t have one, you should get one. I’ll get into that more in my next post as it is a big topic and one RVers should really take time out to address.

For savings on gas, look for special deals at gas stations affiliated with grocery stores. Safeway has always provided a few cents off for swiping their store loyalty card as do many others. At H-E-B in Texas this past summer, the savings were very substantial if you paid with an H-E-B gift card at the pump. While not a grocery store, Pilot/Flying J also has an RVer loyalty card which not only saves you a few cents per gallon at the pump but saves on propane refills as well. You may also want to consider paying for gas with a rewards credit card rather than a debit card. Aside from getting cash back, there are some gas stations that charge a fee to use a debit card at the pump. I have seen them several places in California and the fee is substantial.

Save on ATMs out on the road and other banking fees by changing your bank! Anyone who has used Wells Fargo knows they nickel and dime you to death with fees. They also love to change the rules all the time by adding new fees or changing the method allowed to avoid a fee. There are plenty of other banks out there with better deals. For example, some banks will waive the first overdraft of the month while others like CapitalOne360 create a small overdraft as a very low interest loan within limits or refuse it so you cannot overdraft. Charles Schwab has no ATM fees and will refund any other ATM fees you have to pay. That works well for travelers, especially at places like Quartzsite where many vendors don’t take credit or debit cards. Some banks don’t charge extra for international payments which is good for those who cruise a lot or otherwise travel overseas. One thing I have learned over the years is that banks are like employers. They want your total loyalty but have absolutely none to you no matter how long you have been with them so you should consider changing now and then. If you just don’t want to change your bank but want to avoid ATM fees, then get cash in participating stores when checking out rather than using ATMs on the road. Buy a soda, some milk, whatever and ask for cash back.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to save money both on and off the road. They are not difficult to find and every penny saved means a better RVing lifestyle for you. Two can live as cheaply as one when you use discounts, coupons, smart credit cards, free shipping, and cash back rebates.

Time For Maintenance

Finally, the heat has abated and it is cool enough to make RV repairs and updates. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely HATE working outside in 100+ temps and I’m not all that crazy about moving around a lot inside in that kind of weather either. The cold wind blowing through prompted me to get off my summer butt and take action. First things first. When I arrived at my current gate, I was so sleep deprived from the last gate and moving that I didn’t fully setup. I’ve been lucky in that the wind has been mild and coming from behind or in front of the RV rather than from the side but that has now changed. An arctic blast from Alaska is now getting its jollies blowing my RV all around and especially the slide-out awning. I love my very long slide-out that creates a huge living room inside but the awning over it is highly susceptible to wind. Time to anchor it down as I normally would have when setting up. It was funny that the same day I went to do that, someone on Facebook with a new RV was asking how to do that. What I do is use a long black anchor strap with a spring that was made for holding down the main awning. It works very well to keep the slide-out awning from flying up so I don’t have to constantly close my slide-out when it gets windy.

Slide-out awning tie down

Next up, I started cleaning up my hearth. I use to have a woodstove in here but now use the hearth for my portable air conditioner, electric heater, and miscellaneous storage. I have been bugged since I bought this RV by the lack of enough outlets in the entertainment area and had a suspicion about the metal heat reflector the previous owner had mounted behind the hearth. I decided to unscrew it and take a look behind it. Sure enough, I found a working outlet behind it. I also found a box with 3 loose cable connections and a 12V connection next to it which I assume is why the incoming cable connection in the rear power cable storage compartment isn’t working nor does the bedroom cable outlet. Hooray! Since I no longer have the woodstove, having the heat reflector there is no longer as critical. I do want to keep it though to maintain the ambience of the hearth and I may be installing either an electric fireplace or a blue flame propane heater some day in that area. I decided to have some fun with my oscillating tool and cut out a square of the metal around the outlets to give me access to them. Should I need the full reflector intact again, I can easily hang or screw a larger metal cover over the exposed area. For now, I duct taped over the cable box to stop any cold air coming in from it until I locate a connector panel for it.

Outlet cutout

Still in the mood, I tackled the broken cover for the umbilical cord on my RV that plugs into my truck for lights and brakes. I happened to have a new cover I bought for another project that didn’t work out. Replacing the old one was not easy though. I looked at both ends of the cord and decided the best choice was to disassemble the connector that plugs into the truck. I had to take it all the way apart, down to just the loose wires, to get the large plastic outer casing off to pull the cord back through the broken cover and into the new one. Putting it back together wasn’t too bad since the wire colors matched the colors stamped on the connector. The new cover looks great and now keeps the bugs out of the umbilical compartment.

Umbilical cover

Lastly, I turned my attention to my truck and added more transmission fluid it needed. Now that winter is here, don’t forget to change your windshield wipers, top off fluids, clean or change air filters, and change batteries in RV smoke alarms. I already handled those. :-D

Next projects are re-painting the bumper, hitch, and stairs on the RV to keep the old girl looking good for campgrounds in case one has that stupid 10 year rule. I also need to fix a ding in my truck windshield with a kit I use to do that myself. Both require a little more heat outside than I have now so I wait. I’m hoping to start next week. Maybe I’ll cut and mount the new shelves in the kitchen cabinets this week. Maybe. Depends on my mood day to day. ;-)

Guarding McKenzie

While I enjoyed much of my stint guarding on the Calvert ranch with lots of cow fun and wonderful owners, it became too much for me to handle. It got to the point where there was no time at all for sleeping. I was a wreck. I had to call the cavalry to come out and relieve me for a night which helped temporarily but the situation did not improve so I finally had to ask to be released from that gate. There are some limits to single gate guarding. I was replaced by a couple of gals working together out of a motorhome.

By then I was terribly burned out. I was immediately put on another gate but it was one I shared with another couple of guards so I only had to work 12 hrs. then I could sleep all I needed and even go into town when not working. I took some time to get in some shopping, geocaching, sightseeing, unload items not needed at the local thrift store, picked up my first smart phone and new phone service, and I tried out a new game called Munzee that is similar to geocaching and uses a smart phone. That was my first 12 hr. gate and I really enjoyed it while it lasted. Unfortunately, the time came when the work slowed down just enough for them to pull the other guards and put me on it 24/7. I have done several other gates 24/7 with no problems but this one was not only very active all day and night, I also had to open and close the gate each time and they moved my RV farther away from the gate. That makes for a lot of walking and no sleep again. I had to get released as quickly as possible but hung in there a few days until they could find someone else. Now before you start thinking it was just me, the couple that left was not keen on doing it alone either nor was another single person who was asked to do it. There are some gates that simply must have a couple and some that require several couples due to the traffic. Throw in 100+ degree temps and mosquitos also and well, I think you get the picture. There is one ranch that many of us (including couples) refuse to work because it is so hideously busy that they constantly have to replace worn out guards.

I finally got a gate sort of near Pleasanton, TX. It’s actually quite a drive but still the closest to get groceries. I have been hearing other guards talking about working out this way but only now got a gate out here. Finding it was fun since my GPS has the wrong spelling for the road name and while my smart phone had the right spelling and directions, it ran out of power. Oops! I actually passed the road and had to call the other guards for more directions. I am again working with another couple but this time we both work 24/7. On the plus side, I am the second gate so I don’t have to log anyone in or out. The first gate guards do that. I just have to see who is coming in or out, smile and wave, hand out directions and maps as needed, keep the gate lighted at night, and document when someone hits the gate which is very narrow. While that isn’t a lot of work, this is a busy work area so I get woke up a lot at night. Last night they woke me up constantly from 2-3 AM then started the regular work day at 5:30 AM. Other nights they might keep me awake from 11 PM – 2AM depending on what is going on or once in a while I get to sleep most of the night. I spend a lot of time sleeping on my couch. From what I can tell, I will be here for quite awhile. There are numerous work pads and wells here and lots to be done yet.

Mckenzie gate 2Oil rig

The cows have just started to come by and warm up to me. A huge cougar came very close the other night I hear. Bunches of turkeys have been by and some wild pigs went across the road and down the ravine. No illegals have shown up… yet.

This seems to be the place where generators come to die. I have had constant generator issues since I got here and several replacements. I really need a good large one of my own but I just can’t figure out where to carry one. The small 1000 watt one I do carry is only good enough to run the gate lights and recharge my batteries. I’ll keep thinking on that. Maybe if I move my trailer spare tire into the truck bed, I could attach a carrier to my bumper for a 3000-4000 watt genset. I could buy two Honda 2000i’s which might fit in my truck bed with their low profile but they are very pricey at 3 times the cost unless I get lucky on Craigslist. Having a generator or two in my truck bed also creates security issues. It’s always somethin’.

Halloween On a Gate

Just because gate guards are stuck on a gate 24/7 and can’t go to parties doesn’t mean they can’t still have fun. The guys working out here on the rigs really enjoy it when the guards decorate, wear costumes, and hand out candy or cook for them. I carry holiday decorations onboard that are inflatable, paper, or will easily squish into the compartment above my bed. For Halloween I had a wonderful fence right in front of my RV that I could decorate all I like. I hung ghosts, a black garland, paper pumpkins, and a nice banner to get everyone in the mood for a couple weeks before the holiday. I got lots of smiles, honks, and thumbs up from the guys. A few of the guys had the good sense to say the magic words (Trick-or-Treat) early to start hitting the treats before Halloween. Men get awful hungry working hard all day on an oil rig or pipeline.  A nice treat on the way back out of the gate helps to make the drive home bearable.

When Halloween finally came, the guys made out like bandits. There are two sets of gate guards here and we both gave out candy and oranges. For my part, I greeted them coming in with a scary mask on and a huge bowl of goodies. One guy stopped to show me his bloody knife costume he wore for a party with his kids. Another guy came in and out wearing a scary mask. On the way out, I had fun scaring them standing in my doorway with a big knife and my scary mask. Don’t worry. I was 10 feet away behind a fence and they had already gotten candy from me. They all pointed and laughed.

halloween gatehalloween mask and candy

The decorations came down right after Halloween. A few days later, one of the guys stopped by to tell me they missed the decorations and wanted to know if I would be decorating for Christmas. Of course I will be! Wait till they see my Merry Chrismoose hat that went over so well last year that they demanded I wear it at all times. LOL!