Things move pretty fast and are unpredictable in the oil fields. One minute you are happily working away making money and the next thing you know, the company man drives through and says, “Oh by the way, you are released.”. End of job. Sometimes you get a day or two of notice but not always. You pack up and move on to either a “yard” your guard company may run or to a campground to start calling for the next assignment. Some will get asked to follow a crew on to their next job and keep working steady. So ended my first stint as a gate guard after 10 days.
I stayed overnight on the gate with an out of service notice in my window since they were done needing a guard at that location and I was guarding our company equipment. The next morning, our support guys came to pick it up then I moved on to one of my membership campgrounds in New Waverly, TX. I highly recommend a stay at Timberlodge RV Park. They are outside of town where it is very quiet and peaceful. They have a clubhouse with kitchen, TV, laundry , pool table, satellite TV, and pool. The managers are wonderfully nice and easy to work with. From there, you can go see Lake Livingston to enjoy some fishing or boating, visit Escapees headquarters there and take a tour of their facilities as I did, or head on up to Huntsville to see the Sam Houston statue (largest statue of an American hero), the Texas Prison Museum with “Old Sparky”, and Hearts Veterans Museum. A little touristing in between gates makes a happy guard!
With some time on my hands, I also went grocery shopping and hit up Wal-Mart for some things. I visited several RV parts stores in the area. I also went to several thrift stores looking for a couch to replace my swivel chair. This 5th didn’t have a couch in it when I bought it and you really need either a sofa or a reclining chair, depending on your preference, to nap in and get your legs up when doing gate guarding. I lucked out and found one that fit the spot in my slideout perfectly, is in great condition, isn’t ugly, and only cost $75. Happily, it also came with two strong, handsome young men to deliver it right to my rig.
I was off for 10 days and had started checking around with other companies for a new gate when I got the call from my company. A gate was opening on the other side of Texas (where I had come from for the first gate) and they needed me there by midnight as a favor to them. The race was on! I washed dishes and closed up the trailer as fast as I could. The ground was still wet making it interesting. I hitched up and drove for 8 hours through rush hour traffic, rain, and fog until finally I reached the new gate in Carrizo Springs in the dark. Thank goodness the crew hadn’t come in yet so I got to sleep through the night once I was setup.
This is a different kind of gate from my last one. It has a high fence all around and a real gate that must be kept locked and opened for each vehicle or group of vehicles. I had to improvise a rope system to keep one of the gates from being pushed out by the wind while unlocking them and to lessen the number of times I have to walk out on the cat walk over the cattle guard for safety. This time I have a bell dinger instead of a driveway monitor due to being too close to the busy highway which drives monitors crazy. To be sure I hear the bell and wake up, we had to drill a hole in my floor larger and run the ringer hose up through it. It’s a very busy gate but the guys are very nice and try to make it easier for me.
I have guarded my first gate in the rain now. Loads of fun… I grabbed a nearby board to use as a mud board then filled a plastic container next to it with water to wash my boots before stepping back into the RV. Sure could use a boot wiper too. At least I had rubber boots on board and ready for this.
Popular among many RVers, particularly snowbirds, is working the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and other oil fields as gate guards to make some money fast. Many work only during the cooler winters while sitting out the snow in northern states or to make enough money to travel the rest of the year. Some brave the hot, humid summers to work all year. I’ll be one of the latter this year. I just got a gate in East Texas to guard. Mostly, I just check vehicles in and out at the gate. The work itself is easy but also grueling at times when the site is especially busy and you are popping in and out your door or sitting outside in the heat or cold to avoid that. You have to deal with bugs, snakes, rain, high winds, hail, tornadoes, illegals and drug traffickers in some areas and sometimes uncooperative people while keeping your cool. It isn’t for the faint of heart. They prefer couples but there are gates for singles out there though nowhere near as many. One thing I have learned is don’t wait for the companies to contact you. They are notorious for not returning phone calls or emails both before and after you sign up with them and you can sign up with more than one company at a time. A free site is provided at the gate. Most companies provide all utilities, most hire as a contractor while a few will hire as an employee, most provide what you need to do the job while at least one I know requires you to provide much of it yourself. There are many blogs on the internet such as myoldrv.com
to give you a great idea of what it takes to be a gate guard. There are also forums such as gateguards.org
and many popular RVer forums discuss it under their workamping threads.
If you only want to do it during the winter, be aware that there are now too many people with that idea so gates have become much harder to come by in the winter. Keep in mind also the weather in these states. Whether you are just playing and seeing the sites or working, don’t get caught in them without a NOAA weather radio for your safety.
In need of a cheaper place to stay and wait on a job, I went down to Hondo, TX to the Escapees club Lonestar Corral RV Park. It is an excellent place to stay if you are a member. The sites are big and level. Mine included a clothesline. The residents and other campers there are very nice people to hang around with. There are lots of activities and socials at the clubhouse. There is also a geocache just outside their fence.
Hondo is a pretty decent sized town with all the fast food joints, a Super Wal-Mart, and H-E-B grocery store which to my delight has similar prices to Wal-Mart and in several cases were cheaper believe it or not. It’s a nice place to spend some time and close to the fun in San Antonio.
Near Hondo is the town of Sabinal where I went to the Wild Hog Festival to dip my toe in the Texas culture. There were lots of food booths of course. I got my first smoked turkey leg there and it was delicious! There were rides for the kiddies, a climbing wall, and lots of things on sale. A school band performed a wonderful concert of Texas tunes in the pavilion followed by a karate demonstration by the local karate school.
The highlight, of course, is the greased hog chasing. All ages can participate in chasing one around a pen to catch it and have your partner put him in a burlap sack then drag it across a line in the pen. The fastest time wins. There were many surprises with some younger kids outdoing the older ones. A couple of the teams had to catch the hog several times before successfully getting it in the bag. The amount of chasing is limited to 3 minutes to keep the hogs from getting overheated. I was very glad I didn’t have to clean any of the clothes of the participants after as it got pretty dirty.
There is one local family who attends the festival every year. They get commemorative T-shirts specially made for the entire extended family before coming. It days make it easy to find each other in the crowd.
For more pics click here.
I really miss my Sony wireless TV for setting up my satellite dish. It made a truly unpleasant chore much easier since I could take it outside with me and watch as I pointed and fine-tuned the dish. Unfortunately, that was one of the things lost in my RV accident. We tried a workaround way to do something similar with an old TV but that was no where near as easy to use due to its small size. After, Texas winds trashed my satellite dish AGAIN, I finally went and bought the Winegard Carryout Portable Automatic dish on sale at Camping World. Yes, it is more expensive but it is worth it. It works with both DirectTV (no HD though) and Dish Network (with HD too). It will work with most receiver models. It sets up easily if you follow instructions which are hidden in the box in a foam sidewall. You may need to open it and set a dip switch since it is set to DirectTV by default. You will also have to install the handle.
It comes with a metal bracket you can use to secure it to something nearby. I have both a 6 foot and a 30 foot vinyl covered wire straps to secure it close by or farther away. I found them and locks at Home Depot.
After several months of use, I am very happy with mine. It is lightweight. The lower profile and solid dome give it better protection from the wind. It takes up very little room in my RV when traveling. It is so nice to be able to put it outside and have it set itself up automatically. Much easier. I just place it in the general direction of the satellites and let it do its thing. When switching from one satellite to another it is often seamless. Once in a while I get a “No signal” screen for a few seconds when switching channels between satellites but it isn’t bothersome. The downside is it loses signal in any heavy rain, hail, or snowstorm so keep your DVDs handy for those rare nights. On the whole, I highly recommend them but wait for a sale.
The last time I was in San Antonio, I was a new recruit in Air Force basic training and not allowed off the base at Lackland. That was a verrry long time ago. With a free day over the weekend available, it was time to see what the big deal was. It was a lovely sunny day in the city. Unfortunately, it was also a special one at the Alamo with the original Col. Travis letter declaring to fight on display so the area was very crowded. I had to park half a mile away and pay $10 just for that. The line to get into the Alamo wound down the street and back around the corner which was too long for me. I had heard there wasn’t that much to see and lines were just as long inside to read each tour sign. All I really wanted was to stand there in front of it where history was made and get a picture.
If you have lots of money, there are numerous other attractions across from the Alamo such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a wild Tomb Raider ride, etc. The visitor’s center is also there so stop in and pickup brochures with coupons first. I preferred to walk along the River Walk. It is as beautiful as they say. There are lovely waterfalls, fountains, flora, Spanish style buildings, etc. on the River Walk. The boat ride on the river was well worth it and inexpensive. There are numerous places to eat just about anything under umbrellas on the walk. I chose to eat at the River Center Mall court which is also river side. The various stalls gave out yummy free samples. I finally settled on a huge plate of Chinese fried rice and chicken teriyaki for lunch. Local musicians provided Mexican music to entertain us while the tourists on the boats coming by snapped pictures. After lunch, I walked almost all the way back to my vehicle via the River Walk while checking out some of the tourist shops. It was a nice day.
If you want to see more of San Antonio, there are numerous ways to get around. There’s a water taxi on the river of course or you might try some of these other ways below.
For more pics click here.
While I normally do not stay in KOAs due to their high prices, the one in Junction, TX was in the right location for my next stop and I had worked out a reasonable deal on the phone to stay in their overflow area with electric and water just overnight. I was able to stay hooked up and get out easily the next day. It worked out fine for them as the park was almost full when I arrived and within a half hour they did fill to capacity as more campers pulled in and two more had to be put in the overflow area. It is a very pretty park beside the river. They provide nice shelters and BBQ areas. There is an open rocky beach area where you can launch a canoe or kayak. I’m told the BBQ place in town is pretty good. The Dang Cat enjoyed the chickens and rooster right next door to us though I did not enjoy it the next morning. I don’t think the owners of the park would have minded if the cat had gotten out of the RV and gone over to visit them.
The next morning I drove through the Texas hill country to Boerne, TX and the Top of the Hill RV Park. Again, more stinking wind. Grrrr! It caught my other bedroom window which I know was closed, pulled it open, and destroyed all the window hardware as well as the the old vinyl blind.
Sites at the RV park are level, wide, and long. They have a clubhouse, laundry, pool, spa, and billiard room. The staff are very nice and helpful. It wasn’t cheap to stay there but I was able to get at least a couple of days with Passport America and it was close to the office of some people I needed to talk to. One thing I started learning there is to park my RV so that the sewer connection is halfway between my two dump openings whenever possible. I can leave one hooked up and easily switch it to the other that way. Otherwise, I have to run more hose to dump the farther one or hook both up at the same time. I also learned that the Texas hill country is full of burrs. They kept coming into the house on my shoes and made it miserable and painful to walk around barefoot.
Boerne is a pretty good sized town with a Super Wal-Mart and Home Depot. I took full advantage of both and got a new aluminum blind for the bedroom (the window I have taped shut until I can get all the parts to fix it). Tweety’s RV Store is also there and pretty good. It’s close enough to San Antonio for some sightseeing which I did.
With the wind improved but still battering, I turned south and crossed into Texas headed for Balmorhea. No particular reason to go there. It just happened to be on the way and the right distance to travel. I considered stopping in El Paso but after all the delays, I decided to keep going further. When I arrived, the park was full. I was now in oil country where workers fill the parks. I would need reservations any where I go in Texas from now on. Being too tired to keep going, I asked them if they had a spot I could boondock on and was pointed behind the office where there is a very large open dirt area that trucks park in. I parked way at the back away from everyone and settled in for the night. It wasn’t bad at all. I fired up my wood stove for heat which the dang cat very much enjoyed. The embers kept providing heat for hours after the flames went down and the dang cat kept inching closer and closer to it in her sleep. I was able to use my TV and DVD player for entertainment all evening and the next morning thanks to my brother setting them up to run off battery. I had propane to cook up a nice dinner. I slept well.
The next morning I checked in at the office again and found they now had a vacancy so I decided to stay and rest up for another day. After dumping my tanks, I took a walk on their little nature trail then worked out details and reservations for my next stop.
Pulled out of Tucson, AZ headed for Las Cruces, NM though I should have thought twice about it as it was already breezy that morning. I didn’t get very far. Just past Benson, AZ I decided to pull into a rest area at the top of a mountain after being battered by high winds. Wind is a dangerous enemy of RVs and not to be taken lightly. There were lots of trucks and RVs pulled in at the rest area which seemed like a pretty good clue that I had made the right decision. I spoke with another RVer to ask him if I was just being a wuss about the wind and he told me definitely not. He intended to go on to the next town and pull over for the night though he thought the wind was supposed to die down by 3 pm. I went inside my RV to sit it out for awhile. I had a nice lunch and took a nap. Around 3 pm the wind was still very high if not worse. I checked the weather reports and found we were under an advisory until 8pm. I decided to also go to the next town 20 miles away for the night. I crawled down the mountain and for 20 miles with winds screeching and tearing at me. I found a cheap Passport America park in Willcox, AZ and pulled into Ft. Willcox RV Park. A nice gentleman came running up to me to help me register and slide me into a pull thru site. I thought they would be full by now as did he but there were still several sites available. The park is pretty basic with lots of residents there but it is quite suitable for a night or two. There are historic attractions nearby if you have the time. With the temperature dropping fast and winds still biting, I left the slideout in, set the jacks for stability, then snuggled down inside with soup and a movie.
The next morning, I stopped in town for gas and propane. I also came across a Safeway market so I did some grocery shopping before heading out for the day. The wind was better but still a pain in the arse for driving. I decided not to push it and stopped in Las Cruces, NM. With another major wind storm and advisory predicted for the next day, I decided to stay over another day which worked out fine with the Passport America park I found there, Coachlight RV Park. They were very friendly and also have nice level pull thru sites along with lots of residents. It’s a decent park to stay when in the area and I would stay again. As soon as I parked, a woman came over to me to say hello neighbor. It turned out that she and her husband were parked next to me back in Willcox. LOL. After I got setup and secured for the night, we had a nice chat in their motorhome. They too were spending a couple days to sit out the next wind storm.
I rested the next day. It was too windy to go sightseeing and I didn’t want to unhitch for just a day.