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Sad Week In The Oilfields

As well as working in the oilfields pays, these jobs are dangerous and sadly last week we have lost several good young men. At one ranch, there was a fire on the pad that killed 5. They were sons, husbands, and fathers. They are guys many of us have worked with or logged in at the gate. A few days later there was a another fire. 1 man was burned and has been life flighted to the hospital. Another young man was killed in a car accident while doing his rounds. The roads out here are very dangerous. They are filled with 18 wheelers going 75 miles an hour on two lane roads and drivers who have been working too long or gotten up too early.

There is also the danger from illegal aliens and drug runners passing through. Border patrol is always busy tracking them and picking them up. I keep my door locked at night and any time Border Patrol is in here. Then there is the danger from wild animals. From fire ants to raccoons to snakes to bobcats and javelinas, we get them all. Lastly, the weather down here is fearsome. We get high winds, dust storms, tornadoes, floods, and powerful lightning strikes.

These jobs are not for sissies. Why do we work them? The pay is terrific and there is something interesting happening or to see every day. In the case of gate guarding, the requirements to get these jobs are also minimal and you can easily go on vacation or even take months off then come back with no ramifications with your company.

Off The Gate

My lovely slow gate that I have been on for 2 years suddenly turned into a nightmare when the oil company decided to build some new pads for several new wells and do everything at the same time. They came in and kept me extremely busy during the day building the pads and then I had tankers coming in at night so not a lot of sleep for a single person. The plan after that is to drill all the wells at the same time while also rebuilding the pipeline that runs under the gate. Eek! I was still recovering from illness I got on my cruise too. I had to get off that gate!

They sent me to a campground at their expense. Unfortunately, my truck started acting up and something broke on the way here. I did make it to the campground but just barely. The campground staff recommended a local repair guy who could come to me and while very nice, he did not fully fix it. The computer he replaced mine with was bad. After many days and many tries and the problem being intermittent, the truck decided it had enough and failed to start at all. I called my Saferide emergency service and had them tow it to a garage that other guards recommended. It was farther than the approved tow distance but the Saferide lady was very nice about it when I explained that the garage I contacted could take it immediately unlike others. It cost me all of $20 to have it towed 4 miles farther. The garage ordered a new computer from a know good source and replaced it. Truck is working fine now.

My favorite heater died when I got here. Thank goodness my old old, second heater still works. It takes two heaters to keep this RV warm on very cold nights below 40 degrees so I balanced the electric heater with my propane furnace so that the electric one did most of the work and saved on as much propane as possible. It got so cold here that every store sold out of heaters! They finally got some more in and while I couldn’t get the same one as before, I did get one similar to it in a different brand and am very happy with it. When I’m on a gate, I get all the free electricity I want so running two electrical heaters and not the propane furnace is very economical. I run one of the heaters directly from the company generator and the other from the trailer wall socket.

Sometimes it is good to be off the gate in a campground with other gate guards. We help each other out, share ideas, and sometimes have dinner together. They have been a huge help with getting my truck fixed by picking me up from the garage and driving me back.

Last night I had some wonderful lasagna with veggies that another guard cooked. Yum! I haven’t had lasagna in a long time.

Another couple here were new to gate guarding so I spent some time clueing them in to what they need to have on board, how to keep mice and ants out, how to hang out with other guards on Facebook, etc. The husband came up with a brilliant way to install rope lights on their RV underneath to stop mice and squirrels after I told him about keeping it lighted. Rodents like to do their dirty work in the dark. I learned this at the Escapees park near Yosemite where all the rigs are lighted underneath at night and have verified it down here working in the oilfields. The one time I forgot to turn on the lights, I got invaded again. Good for seeing snakes at night too. The husband was kind enough to install one rope light strand for me before they got called out to a new gate. Today I started working on installing a second strand that connects to the first and totally lights up underneath. So cool and won’t bother neighbors in campgrounds. Now I’ll use my 24 LED work light to light up under my truck when I can’t park it where the guard lights shine under.

Today, a couple drove me 26 miles to a gate to pick up a beautiful RV love seat/fold out bed to replace my old and and overly heavy couch. Another gate guard couple needed to get rid of it to make room in their RV for their recliners. My truck bed is filled with a 5th wheel hitch and other bolted in items so I needed another truck and some muscle. I had hoped the couple that drove could either use the love seat or my old couch which are in much better shape than theirs but they decided not to take either. I love the new sofa which was barely used and I have a little more room in my slideout now. I won’t be able to sleep on it the same way I slept on the other one but I realized that I usually hurt my arm or something when sleeping on the old one and my bed is actually the same distance to the front door anyway so there is no reason not to sleep on my bed. I can lay down on the love seat and just dangle my feet off the side.

No word yet on a new gate for me. Been over 4 weeks now. They have to find me a slower gate than others. Dang! All they have offered me so far is working out of my truck in the freezing weather which is boring and getting pneumonia really wouldn’t be helping me so I wait. Hopefully soon…

Kauai, HI

Our first port disappointment! When we got back to our room last night, we had a notice that our excursion to go tubing the ditch had been canceled and refunded. We were both really looking forward to tubing the irrigation canal through caves. That would have been so cool! I scrambled down to the excursions desk early the next morning for more info and to see what else might still be available. Tubing they said was canceled for weather. What? It was beautiful out! Aargh! Oh well, time to make lemonade… They still had openings on the Wailua River Fern Grotto boat tour so I booked us on that. It was only a few hours and would leave us all afternoon to do some gift shopping. Hmm. Not quite as good but definitely a good alternative.

Back on a bus again to the marina. George sneaked into my backpack to avoid being left behind again. That George! We arrived and were directed to the boats. There was live entertainment on board as we made our way up the river past canoes and paddleboards. The grotto is a short walk from the dock up a nice path past a stream and waterfall. It is a beautiful area. There is a deck area to stand and look at the grotto. Ferns were everywhere.

Wailua River tour boatPaddleboarder and dogWailua River Fern Grotto

Fern Grotto waterfallFern Grotto streamGeorge loves rainforests

Afterward, the bus took us to see Opaekaa waterfalls. There were chickens all around. Hawaii has a lot of loose chickens running around. Their coops get damaged by storms and the chickens escape and setup house elsewhere. This guy below was posing for tourists. LOL

Opaekaa waterfalls, Kauai, HIHawaii free-ranging chicken

Back at the ship, we hopped a free local shuttle to Hilo Hattie’s for shopping. They gave us shell necklaces and we found a few goodies for the grandkids and ourselves there. Bernie got a lovely Hawaiian shirt for herself. I got a bamboo cutting board with the Hawaiian Islands burned into it.

We spotted a KFC across the street. It is very hard to find one of those in Texas and we both needed a break from the rich ship food so we had lunch there before hopping the shuttle again. With so many free-ranging chickens around, the KFC should be well stocked!

We stopped off at the edge of town just before the pier for a little more shopping and to see the beach. It was fun going through the little stores. I wish we could have spent some time on the beach there. It looked very nice.

For more pics click here.

Honolulu, HI

We arrived in Honolulu the day after the day of infamy (Dec. 7). That worked out fine since due to memorial ceremonies on that day, access to Pearl Harbor is limited. The night before we arrived, we read a newspaper I had bought on the aircraft carrier I toured last summer in Corpus Christi. It was a copy of the St. Louis Star Times from December 8, 1941. I highly recommend reading such a newspaper when you can. There was so much more going on that day with other islands elsewhere in the world attacked, Thailand falling to them, Hong Kong and Singapore and the Philippines attacked. The newspaper also showed our government’s initial response as just an “old battleship” and a destroyer were sunk. Huh?! I know newspapers are glory hounds and not necessarily the truth but it does provoke further thought and the urge to research further.

Dec 8th 1941 Newspaper copy

Excursions for Pearl Harbor were all booked up long before the cruise. The cruise line added another excursion shortly before the cruise due to demand. There are other options. There are plenty of other tour companies you can book a tour through if you wish such as Robert’s of Hawaii. You don’t get the guarantee of the ship waiting for you if you are late but the ship didn’t leave Honolulu until 11:30pm so for Pearl Harbor tours it really isn’t important. You can also save a bunch of money and see much more by going on your own. Rental cars are available if booked well in advance as are local buses. Due to how crowded the memorial gets with so many tours coming in, you will need to get your ticket online before going. To score one, you need to be online as soon as sales open at 7am Hawaii time 60 days before your arrival. There is also a 24-hour window when the park releases additional tickets online. The cost is FREE with $1.50 service fee for just the tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. Other tours are also available at additional cost. See recreation.gov for tickets. If you want to try walking in, the memorial opens at 7am Hawaii time so get there early. They hold back 1300 tickets for walk-ins.

We booked an excursion. We would have liked to go on our own but we had scheduling issues as we were also going to do a luau there which required us to be back at the ship to be picked up by 3:30pm. You don’t get to see nearly as much of the memorial on an excursion so if you have the time, go on your own. You may need more than a day to see everything so see it again if you fly to Hawaii instead of cruising.

We hopped on a tour bus on the pier. They pointed out the coral pink VA hospital (Tripler Medical Center) which is the largest military medical center and covers a vast amount of territory in the asian pacific. At Pearl Harbor, we got on a boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was pretty awesome I thought. Did you know Elvis Presley donated money to build the memorial? You can’t see a lot of the ship but it is still pretty humbling. The wall of names there and stories of that day can make you cry. Nearby is the USS Missouri on which the Japanese surrendered. The USS Bowfin submarine is also nearby for a tour.

USS Arizona MemorialMemorialGod bless thse who died at Pearl Harbor

Flag over the USS ArizonaUSS Missouri where Japan surrendered

Back on shore, we toured the museum a bit, bought sandwiches, chips, and drinks for lunch, and hit the gift shop. I got several new stamps in my National Parks Passport.

Back on the bus, we got a little tour of Honolulu and the national cemetery. We got back to the pier with half an hour to spare before the luau bus picked us up. Not enough time to go back on the ship. Here too you have choices. Lots of folks booked the Germaine’s luau excursion through the cruise line to play it safe. Those folks got the cheap seats on the outskirts of the luau which were still good seats. I booked directly through Germaine’s website with them and got us seats in the middle section for the same price and maybe even cheaper. Ours also came with shell necklaces and 2 free drink tickets. Soda is free but alcohol costs if you don’t have a drink ticket. Many others also booked direct and some on the ship excursion filed against the price matching guarantee to get some money back. The funny thing is we were all picked up by the same buses hired by Germaine’s so the issue of not getting back in time was moot. With half the ship there and many of them on a ship excursion, there was no way we would be left behind.

The luau was wonderful! It is on the beach on picnic tables in sand. They roasted a pig in the ground and had a ceremony when they brought it out. It tasted delicious as did everything they served for dinner. They sounded a conch shell for dinner. The entertainment was very good and interactive as they brought folks up on stage to learn to hula. If you bought their tiki mug, you would get twice as much drink than if you just drank from their plastic cups and for no extra charge for the extra drink. The tables had fresh pineapple on them which we enjoyed very much. There was lots of time to eat and enjoy the night. I would definitely go to this luau again. By 10:30-11pm, they delivered us back to the ship quite satisfied and tired from a long day.

Germaine's LuauShake it baby!Learning to hula

For more pics click here.