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Released… Almost

The call every gate guard fears came. My gate was to be closed and I was being released. Time to pack up and hitch up. This has been one of my longest gates. I have been here since last October and truly enjoyed this one. I had hoped to be here all through the hot summer since this one does not require me to log anyone in or even go outside. No such luck, though. As I started cleaning up and putting things away, my supervisor was back on the phone to tell me to stay until further notice. Apparently, the oil company did not know or at least remember that my gate was quite broken and could not be closed off. It had been enlarged to fit bigger trucks and trailers through and the now heavier gate broke off one of the pins holding it. Then later a trucker hit it while coming in and broke the last pin holding it as well as the electric opener.  I continued to prepare to leave while waiting for a repair crew to come fix the gate. It took several days before they finally welded the gate pins back on and re-mounted the gate. Before the oil company could release me again, the ranch manager told them the crew had not fixed the electric opener so he wanted a guard here until that was fixed too. So, here I sit waiting day to day for another crew to suddenly show up to fix the rest of the gate so I can leave. I don’t mind since I’m still getting paid to be here and it’s getting me through some of those hot summer days. 😀

I have no idea where I am going next. I went ahead and renewed my Passport America membership to go to a local campground to wait for another gate assignment. I had to run into town for more groceries while I wait. Hurry up and wait. It’s all a part of gate guarding.

Off to Pittsburgh

Time for another one of my vacations so I decided to go see my aunt and cousin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I last saw them 6 years ago while I was touring all over the country and I miss them. I decided to fly out and hire a sub to stay in my trailer and guard my gate for me. Eek! Flying again. After many, many years of avoiding flying and TSA crap, here I am suddenly flying twice in one year, soon to be three times. Sheesh.

Getting through TSA wasn’t too bad and I really like this e-ticket stuff. Being able to check in online is pretty cool as is getting notices via text messages to my smart phone or the airline app. I bought a regulation size carryon bag during my last trip and just brought that for this trip to give the baggage handlers no chance to lose my luggage in between plane changes. The flight did not go well. The first plane was delayed due to mechanical problems. It became obvious that I was going to miss my connecting flight so I had to get the clerks to book another flight for me out of Atlanta. That would get me into Pittsburgh very late. Once we got on the plane, I found myself with a small child sitting right next to me and one behind me. Egad! The one next to me was actually fine except for not putting up the tray when told. The one behind me was awful. He used his loud voice to babble all through the flight and constantly kicked my seat. His parents did nothing to control him. By the time we got to Atlanta, I was ready to kill. A discrepancy came up with my seat assignment on the next plane so I told the clerk what had happened and asked him to get me a seat away from any kids. He was very nice about it and got me a wonderful seat with no one in the seat beside me and only adults around me.

My cousin picked me up at the airport and took me to my aunt’s apartment in an adult assisted living center. It was great to get to stay there for a week and see what those places are like. I must say I am now looking forward to retiring to one someday. They have lots of activities, nice apartments, beautiful grounds, their own medical center, a movie theater, billiards, exercise room, a library, crafts room, beauty salon, a bus into town, a casual café, and a main dining room with excellent food and service. They even brought us a roll-away bed for me to sleep on.

I got to meet my cousin’s new husband when we had dinner at their house. He’s a very nice guy who makes her happy. My cousin cooked the most delicious lasagna using ground turkey instead of ground beef. They tried to get me hooked on some TV show my aunt and her daughters were passing around on DVDs. We watched a couple episodes while there. I gave my cousin the leftover treats I still had left after my cat died. I had just opened those when I lost my kitty. My cousin’s cat went nuts over them! He kept looking around for more and suckered her out of a couple more. Ha ha! He and I played a little “touch the foot and I’ll try to paw you”.

The next day, we went to a picnic at the park for Memorial Day with my aunt’s singles group. They were very nice to me and I think some remembered me from the last visit. The food was great and I joined in a rabid game of Uno that just would not end. I finally quit and someone won right after that. Heh. I met another RVer there so I had someone to chat with for a while and I planted a Munzee nearby.

AUP Singles picnicPicnic in the parkAunt Marge

Park duck pond

We went to the racetrack one day. I have never been to a racetrack so cross another one off my bucket list. I enjoyed watching the harness racing but the betting not so much. I’m not a gambler. It gives me about as much joy as flushing money down the toilet. I bet on a few of the races but not all. No matter what the horse and rider stats, it still seemed to be pretty much a crap shoot as to who would win or place. I did win a couple. I had more fun taking pictures and eating the stuffed mushrooms.

Harness racing warmupThey're off!Coming to the finish!

Another day we went on the living center bus to see a play downtown. I don’t remember the name but it had only two actors constantly talking us through the scene and the first thing they did was drop on stage and start humping. LOL! That’s the second time my aunt has taken me to a sex play. It wasn’t all sex but boy, what an opening! I enjoyed the play well enough though it went on a bit too long. On the way home on the bus, we heard the Pittsburgh Pirates had won their baseball game so everyone was happy.

Pittsburgh

The last time I visited, I introduced my aunt and cousin to geocaching. After six years away, they were ready to do some more. We spent an afternoon doing some easy parking lot geocaches. We scored six geocaches and one Munzee. I also planted a couple Munzees. At one of the geocaches, we found a dead turkey and poison ivy. My aunt who is a former biology teacher talked us around the ivy.

Since I’m currently tracing my family ancestry, my aunt gave me copies of the work already done on it by my grandfather. She then whipped out a stack of letters from my grandfather to my grandmother from 1925-1926 when they were dating and secretly planning to marry. We took turns reading them to each other over dinner. Wow! You could hear the young persons we never knew in those letters. They were very different from the older settled people we knew. Grandpa complained about the job sometimes (unusual for Grandpa) and talked about buying his new car ( a Whippet). As a traveling civil engineer, he boarded at homes when he couldn’t find a rooming house and liked landladies that baked bread and pies. That explains why Grandma always had fresh pie when we visited! Grandpa professed his love constantly for the “sweetest girl in the world” and they planned their life together after the wedding. We spent a wonderful evening with those letters and learned a lot about two people we thought we knew. My personal favorite was about how bummed he was after he bought the new car that he could only drive it at 25mph for the first 500 miles until it was broken in. Oh my gosh! Poor guy. It’s a shame that future generations will never have such an enjoyable evening due to the advent of email.

Alas, as all vacations must, my week in Pittsburgh came to an end. I flew back to San Antonio with no problems after scoring some Pittsburgh T-shirts for me and my brother at the airport. The Pittsburgh airport runs like a Swiss watch. When we taxied out to the runway, we were in a long line of planes taking off one after the other after the other with planes starting their runs even as the plane in front of them was lifting off. My plane was also one of the newer ones with TV screens on the back of the seats. I got to watch a free movie and play a game. Would love to get on one of those again!

Planes lined up on runway

I picked up my truck which was thankfully not flooded in. The air conditioning had quit on the way in and was still not working. I stopped for dinner and groceries then went back to guarding my gate 24/7 in my RV until the next vacation in August.

For more pics click here.

More Flooding

As you may have heard, Texas is still experiencing rains and flooding. The good news is our lakes which have been almost extinct for a few years are now back in business with much higher levels though still not at full capacity. The bad news is this latest flood did trap me and come uncomfortably close. I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (Hey, this is the south!). Due to my company not wanting to lose this gate in the current oilfield crisis, I stayed in position too long. The water rose higher than the last time and cut me off in all directions. I was barely able to get my truck through it to look for other possible escape routes but found no positions I could still get to that were any better than where I was. I decided to stay put rather than risk the deep waters and mud with my trailer.

Front gate floodingBehind gate floodingSide flooding

As the water came up to my truck tires in front of my trailer, I hooked up and pushed the trailer back farther to get my truck out of the water and get the best possible height under my trailer. The water continued to rise. I called my supervisor but his attitude was entirely too laid back for any kind of much needed reassurance to ring true. I called my past supervisor who had previously saved me from losing everything in another flood. He gave me the info I needed to find the flooding levels on the Internet, told me what river to watch, and suggested I put up a pole outside so I could see if the water was still rising or not. I remembered that I still had a 5 foot piece of PVC in the back of the truck for measuring my support trailer fuel tank. I strapped it to the support trailer which was already surrounded by the runoff since it sits in a lower area. All I could do then was wait and watch.

The Internet reports said the river would be cresting within a couple more inches. That was soothing. It was getting late but I continued to watch my pole for a couple hours. When the water level stayed at the same level for an hour, I was able to get a bit of sleep.

The next morning, the water started to recede a little from the front of my truck. I was still blocked in for a couple more days. I could see one of the families that own the ranch I’m on come by on the other side of the water. They had a net to catch whatever came in with the flood. I did notice the father wading into the water then suddenly jumping back out. I assumed he saw a snake. I had seen one fleeing the water while I was hitching up. When the road opened up, I got word from the other gate guards that we had some guests up the road toward the pad so I road up there on my scooter to check it out. What I found were a whole bunch of huge alligator gar fish trapped in a gully on one side of the road. They had swam through the drain pipe that runs under the road and got stuck in a pool between the road and fence. A couple of them had gotten trapped out of the water by driftwood. One young one got stuck with his head through the fence. With the flood waters still running against them fast through the pipe, they were all very tired from trying to get back out. The two in the driftwood seemed to have given up. I grabbed a very long piece of wood and managed to shift the wood just enough for one of them to get out. The other appreciated having more room and water but was too tired to get over the last hurdle. I gave him a pep talk then left him to rest and try again in his own time. When I checked on them the next morning, some had made it out and the last one in the driftwood had made it to the pool. I checked again the next day and found all of them gone except the one whose head was stuck in the fence. He died.

Texas alligator gar

The rain and flooding continued farther north and has caused a lot of problems in San Antonio and above but I’ve been good and dry here since this flood.

Mail Service Review

Time for a review of mail services for RVers. Having lived in an RV for 10 years now, I have a lot of experience with 4 of the different services out there and using family to forward mail. Here is my opinion on each of them as they pertain to RVers. Keep in mind, while the last two services can provide you with a legal address to become a resident of their states if you are living in your RV full-time, residency is not required and you can just use their mail services. Where you get your mail is not the only factor used to determine residency.

Family

Don’t even think about it! You can’t count on them to forward all mail in a timely manner or to let you know you have mail. If you want to mess up your credit by failing to pay bills, this is the best way to do it. While they mean well, they aren’t generally paid to handle your mail so it tends to come after most other things in their own busy lives. Handling mail is a job. It requires more attention than you think and is often inconvenient. Trust your mail only to professionals.

US Post Office

Pros

  • Found everywhere
  • Reasonably priced
  • You can get a box at their nearest office if staying in one area for awhile
  • They have package lockers for items too big to fit in mail boxes
  • General Delivery is very convenient and they will hold items for 2 weeks

Cons

  • Won’t accept UPS and FedEx packages
  • Can’t sign for mail for you as needed
  • Many online retailers will not ship to a USPS mailbox
  • General Delivery at any one Post Office is available for only 30 days then they insist you rent a box
  • General Delivery will only hold items for 2 weeks

For traveling all over the country, the US Post Office has been pretty good and handy. While they have many cons and are not suitable as your primary mail service, as a secondary mail service they are great. As needed, I have my primary mail service send me mail via General Delivery to the nearest Post Office.

UPS Stores

Pros

  • Found in many cities across the US
  • Longer hours than many Post Offices
  • Can accept all packages
  • Online retailers will ship to them
  • Can forward mail and packages
  • Have many other services including handling deposits for USAA.

Cons

  • They charge $1 a day each for packages held longer than 1 week
  • They don’t always notify you of package or mail arrival
  • They don’t have lockers to make packages available 24/7. You must call and work it out with them
  • While box rates are reasonable, their services including mailing a USPS package are extremely expensive

UPS is okay but there are cheaper services that offer more service. The $1 per package fee can really add up fast if you don’t time your package arrivals with your mail run. Expect to pay twice as much to mail any USPS packages through them.

Escapees

Pros

  • They now have 3 locations in Texas (Headquarters), Florida, and South Dakota which will forward mail anywhere
  • You can use their address in all three states to establish residency for tax purposes (no income tax), vehicle registration, etc.
  • You can call or email to find out what mail they have for you
  • Highly rated service with lots of experience
  • Online retailers will ship to them
  • Can receive all packages and forward
  • They are also an excellent RV club with discounts on camping from 15-50% and other discounts
  • They have their own RV parks with great rates
  • They provide help with absentee voting
  • Strong advocacy on behalf of RVers
  • Camaraderie and lots of hugs

Cons

  • They charge a flat fee of $1 per package to handle them
  • Notify when packages arrive but not mail
  • They can’t mail out the same day you call even if you call in the morning
  • You must belong to the Escapees RV Club for an additional fee to use their mail service
  • Residency in Texas with their local address will subject you to annual vehicle inspections for RV and tow vehicle though they will be waived when not in state

Escapees have a very good mail service and choosing residency as an RVing full-timer in any of their three states may help to avoid state income tax depending on your source of income and previous home state. Check with an accountant or lawyer. In Texas, they are currently NOT in an area requiring smog testing, just vehicle inspections. Their staff are friendly and helpful. You must belong to their RV club to use their mail services but there are many great benefits to belonging to their club such as discounts on camping and supplies, inexpensive camping at Escapees parks in wonderful places all over the country, a list they maintain of free and cheap areas to camp (extra fee), special interest groups for any interest or hobby you may have, group camping and annual shows, RV weigh ins, and lots of friendship and hugs. They love to hug! They also run a CARE center for injured or sick RVers. Even if you don’t use their mail services, you should join their RV club!

My Dakota Address

Pros

  • Very friendly and responsive staff
  • Same day mail outs
  • Email you every day you receive mail so you know exactly what is waiting for you
  • Will read or fax mail to you
  • No package handling fees
  • Can receive and forward all packages
  • Will sign for packages and certified notices on your behalf
  • Online retailers will ship to them
  • Help with South Dakota residency and vehicle registrations using their address at courthouse very close by

Cons

  • Located in an area with a wheel tax of $4 per wheel on your South Dakota registered vehicles
  • South Dakota does not have online driver license renewals so you will need to return every 5 years if you also choose to become a resident too
  • South Dakota is Homeland security compliant which means more citizenship proof needed for drivers licenses

Excellent service and friendly staff. They help you keep on top of your mail by emailing whenever mail or packages are received and they keep replying to that same email until you ask for mail to be sent so you can see a running list of what they have waiting for you. If you call anytime before they mail out, they can mail out today. Mail from them arrives in 3 days by Priority Mail anywhere you are in the country.

Summary

I hope these reviews help. There are many more services out there besides these but this is an idea of what to expect. Choosing a good, professional service to handle your mail as you travel is very important if you don’t want credit dings from paying bills late, don’t want to miss important family event invitations, etc. With a non-Post Office address, you can order all you like off Amazon and Ebay and the address can be written so as to look like an apartment number rather than a box number (#555 instead of PO Box 555). It can also help with becoming a resident in a no state income tax state or in a state that offers many discounts to residents such as Florida. Be sure to pick one that suits your life and travel desires.

Veggie Pasta

veggie_pasta1Say what you want about As Seen On TV products, sometimes they really do have a good idea and get it right. I stumbled across a veggie spiralizer in a Big Lots store and decided to give it a try since I am very much into eating healthy these days. The idea of making pasta that is very low calorie, non-gluten, and contains lots of excellent vitamins and fiber was very appealing. You can even leave the skin on for no peeling hassles and more good nutrients, the bulk of which are actually found in vegetable skins. The big question though is does it taste good? Hmm.

To test it, I used a zucchini though a yellow squash, cucumber, or large carrot work too. Wash then lop off the ends of the zucchini. Insert it into the device and put the included turning cap on the other end of the vegetable. Twist slowly and watch the long threads of veggie pasta come out. When ready, steam them to soften. I put them in a microwave safe bowl with a little water and cooked for 2-3 minutes. On a plate, cover with your favorite heated Spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese. Dig in.

OMG! It was delicious! I thought it was actually better than regular spaghetti and the texture was perfect, just like spaghetti.

For test two, I made zucchini pasta for Pasta Chicken Alfredo. Instead of spaghetti sauce, I covered it with Alfredo sauce that I had warmed up with chunks of cooked chicken and black pepper. Mmm mmm good! If you really want to go wild, add some broccoli too.

I can see using this to make julienne potatoes or hash browns also. I wonder what carrot pasta with roast beef and gravy would taste like. Hmm… Maybe with some potato shreds as well.

I rate this an A. The device works, cleans up easily, is solidly built, and is an easy way to eat healthier or help with a diet. I took off one point for not being able to use the whole vegetable, however, you can use the remaining vegetable by cutting and adding it or frying it up for something else.

veggie_pasta3

Another Flood in Texas

Like death and taxes, one thing that is certain in Texas is that there will be a flood every year. As you may remember, I got caught in a flood last year and nearly lost everything. Several months before that, I got pretty close to being flooded out of my gate. This year, I was specifically told I was in a major flood plain when I arrived at my current gate and was warned again when the spring rains started. I took the precaution of hitching up my trailer and pulling everything in the day before it was supposed to hit. It really helps that I have a new truck box this year which does not block my view of my hitch so I can hitch-up very quickly now.

The next day, the rains started. I kept an eye on the road and all around me. By nightfall, the road was still clear so I decided to hang in there and went to bed. Very early in the morning, my weather radio started going off constantly with flood alerts. I checked outside and saw that everything was fine around me so no problem yet. Later, when daylight came, I checked the road and found it just starting to cover to the south. To the north, the road was covered with fast running water and rising. I waded in a bit to check the level with my hiking pole since I would have to pull my trailer through it to either hunker down up on the first drilling pad or to turn my trailer around to get it out of there all together.  The flashlight popped off my hiking pole and is now probably in China darn it. I really liked and used that light. Bad pole/light design.

McKenzie flood southMcKenzie flood west

When I walked back to my trailer, I could see the water was now over the road to the south and was crossing over behind my trailer pad. I called my boss for permission to abandon post for a day or two, secured the company equipment, then headed out through the water. I slowly pulled through the foot and a half of water to the north so as not to soak the undercarriage or hit a hidden pothole hard. Since I don’t have an H2S gas monitor, I turned the rig around up at the pad and drove back through the water to go out to a campground. When I got close to the front, I spotted a large graveled area that was just big enough and high enough to pull in to stay. With 4 golf batteries and a full tank of water, I knew I could easily boondock for a couple days. That allowed me to not only stay safely for free but to also continue working and collecting pay by driving back down in my truck to guard the gate from my vehicle. I knew I was safe doing that as long as the tanker trucks were still navigating the water to continue their runs. I actually had a good time and a nice change of pace with plenty of walking up and down the road where I could and both my smart phone and Kindle Fire with me. I worked that way for a couple days from dawn till dusk and got to go out to the nearby Pilot station for gas and dinner (in that order not the opposite 😉 ).

McKenzie flood driving

As soon as the water receded, I towed my trailer back to the gate. Getting back in was not easy now that everything around the pad was mud. Much of the rock on the road had been washed away. It took a few tries and some steep angling to get in past the mud. I also had to get it lined up as close as possible to the way it was to re-attach the sewer lines. They use solid plastic sewer pipes with very little give to hook guards up to external sewer tanks.

I stayed hitched up for another day to be sure I didn’t get surprised. The guys were all very welcoming and happy I was back in position. I was home again.

Holidays On The Gate

I love the gate I am currently at because I have this large fence right in front of my door between my RV and the road through the gate I am guarding. To me, it is like a giant canvas to let out my artistic and playful sides. I decorate it for every holiday and have been told the workers here really appreciate my efforts. While I am at it, I also usually wear an appropriate hat for the holiday and sometimes give out goodies to all who pass through.

For Valentine’s Day this year, I gave out Hershey kisses. It is always fun to ask strangers if they would like a kiss. Since I am not young, blond, or skinny, I make a point of holding up the chocolate when I ask. LOL

Valentines Day decorations

For St. Patrick’s Day, I donned an Irish cap and an Irish brogue while greeting the passers by.

St. Patricks Day

For Easter, I wore a bunny hat and hopped up to vehicles with a basket full of bags filled with Easter eggs, jelly beans, and marshmallow chicks.

Easter decorationsMore Easter decorationsEaster Bunny

I’m already plotting um planning my decorations for Memorial Day and 4th of July.  Tee hee.

I hope you all have jobs as fun (most of the time) as mine is.

DangRV – RVQuartzsite Drone

DangRv - RVQuartzsite Drone

DangRV.com and RVQuartzsite.com now have their own drone! Yep, spotted it in a store in the mall while on vacation and just had to have one. It’s a made in China (as most are) quad copter but the quality is quite decent. It has colorful LEDs that light up, 4 axis controls, rechargeable battery, and a tiny camera which takes pretty decent video and still shots. It came with a charger, extra blades, a 2 gig Micro SDHC storage card, and a USB dongle to directly download video from the card to a computer.

Buying it was interesting. As usual, I got the woman’s run around with the salesman asking me if I intended to fly it myself, had I ever flown one before, and did I have a man to fly it for me. Aargh! I get that same nonsense at Radio Shacks, hardware stores, and auto parts stores. To dissuade me from buying it, he had me try to fly one around his tiny store with a male customer close by to try to avoid hitting. While I got the picture that flying it would take a lot of practice, he did not stop me from getting it. The cost was just over $100 and well worth it I figured if I could get even a couple of nice aerial shots for my blogs. One thing I discovered is it crashes well. The body took quite a lickin’ but kept on… well you know.

It is going to take some time but I have learned quite a lot about flying it already. I now know that right and left are relative to the nose and which way it is pointing. I’ll need to perfect the hovering maneuver so it doesn’t fly away and so I can get those shots I want. The distance it can travel away from the controller is not very far (though far enough to get high in the sky) so hovering will help. I think I’ll be ready when I can fly and control it inside my RV. Ah yes, grasshopper.

Looking forward to some great pics and videos to post on my websites for you all. Here’s a a little taste for you.

View of drone and Big Tent in Quartzsite, AZAerial view of campsite on BLM

I think my drone needs a name. Any suggestions?