Boring Day . . .

so no blog.

Maybe tomorrow.

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A Slow Day . . .

Today turned out to be a really slow on, but probably the calm before the storm. We only had 58 vehicles through the gate. But Monday is when all the fun is supposed to start. They will begin fracking on the two wells here, and we will get 100+ sand trucks coming through, in addition to the normal traffic.

First thing this morning I called Galveston Bay RV Resort to confirm our usual Sunday before Thanksgiving arrival. Lauralee already had us on the books, but it’s always good to double-check.

My next call was to Coleman Outdoor Products, the maker of our 13 x 13 canopy. When we received it from Amazon last week and tried to set it up, it just would not work right.

Coleman Canopy struts

And in continuing to fight with it, two of the cross struts snapped in half.

A little more investigation showed the problem. On all four sides, one set of the connectors where the struts crossed had not been tightened down. This allowed the struts to twist and bind as we tried to pull it open. And this torque caused the hollow struts to break at the weak point, which was where the hole was drilled through. I was able to repair the struts with Gorilla Tape and get it erected, but it’s still a little wonky. So I called  Coleman to get some replacement struts under warranty.

But they wouldn’t give me any struts. In fact they wouldn’t even sell me any. Apparently their lawyers have decided it would be too dangerous for a customer to unscrew two bolts, replace the damaged strut, and tighten the bolts down. I’m beginning to agree with Shakespeare on this.

I was told I could send the canopy back under warranty and they would send me a new one free – with a two to three week turnaround. YEAH, RIGHT!

I’ll check tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure Amazon will send me a new one and let me return the damaged one in the new box. Hope so.

I finally got tired fighting with the low voltage problem on my generator. Apparently the regulator is bad and it will not keep the voltage high enough. So when I went over to get a bag of ice I stopped off at the office and told Jamie my problem.

He said that as soon as the guys get back from another run, he’d have a brand new one out to us. And two hours later he did. Great support.

The new one is holding 120 volts with no problems, and the AC’s are working better too. Nice.

This afternoon the water guys were running a new water line around behind our site and down to the fracking pond to help them keep it topped off.

Whitsett Water Hose 1

Each reel holds 200 meters of 10” hose, and they just drive along and spool it off.

Whitsett Water Hose 2

You see these hoses running along a lot of roadways in this part of the country.

Whitsett Water Hose 3

We have a flare stack about 300 yards down the road and pretty much every night we get a fireworks show.

Whitsett Flare Stack

Whitsett Flare Stack 2

The flame is about 50 feet high and you can feel the heat even from 300 yards away.

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Thought for the Day:

“The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere, restrains evil interface. They deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” -— George Washington

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They Run In Packs . . .

First off, if you saw the blog yesterday where I talked about it being a slower day with only XXXX vehicles, the number should have been 95. I put the XXXX in as a placeholder until I verified the actual number and then forgot to update it. Sorry ‘bout that.

I finally got a chance this morning to drive back into the site and see how things are laid out.

This is the RR crossing that I mentioned yesterday. The first gate where the guys are standing is actually a cattle crossing gate. The train crossing is back by the Stop Sign.

Whitsett Gate RR Crossing

I got a chance to talk with John and Rhonda, the couple that have that gate, and they said that from the time you can see the train coming over the slight hill until it passes the crossing, it’s only 28 seconds. Not a lot of time for a big truck to have to slow down for the hill and the crossing and then make a sharp left turn toward the wellheads before they clear the RR crossing.

Rhonda is in the orange vest and the two guys are pulling a 12” diameter flexible water hose underneath the cattle guard. This will bring water from the fracking pond down to the sites where the actual fracking will be done.

This is the manmade fracking pond, done by making a big hole, lining it with plastic, and then keeping it filled with water.

Whitsett Gate Fracking Pond

Despite all the hype, most fracking is done by injecting water, sand, and a small amount of detergent down the hole to put pressure on the oil-bearing shale rock formations to cause it to expand and crack open, releasing more oil. The oil in shale rock is not found in big pools, but is contained within the rock itself, holding it kind of like a sponge. Fracturing (or fracking) it allows the oil to be released and recovered.

And as it turns out, there’s an awful lot of shale oil in Texas and elsewhere in the US. And the world, for that matter. In fact enough to dwarf what Saudi Arabia and Middle East have.

This is the tank farm for the producing wells already in this area.

Whitsett Gate Tank Farm

All of the operational wells here feed into these tanks and then are trucked out. But not for much longer. They are almost finished with a feeder pipeline that will connect the tanks with a main pipeline to take the crude directly to a refinery.

And this is us.

Whitsett Gate 3

That’s the main highway right out in front of us, so hopefully we won’t have 6 flats like we did last year driving on all the bad backroads.

We set up the canopy in front of the rig this time due to the size of the site, and the fact that our new canopy is 13’ x 13’ instead of 10’ x 10’ like last year.

One thing different here from last year is the way the trucks come through the gate. It’s like they run in packs. We’ll get nothing for 15 minutes and then 9 vehicles will through, one right behind the other, like they plan it this way. Still haven’t figured out why it’s like this this year.

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Thought for the Day:

Never do your enemy a small injury.

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Not Much . . .

new happened today. We’re settling into the routine of a new gate, starting to learn names and faces of the regulars, and who’s who’s in the pecking order.

My night shifts from 11pm to 7am are pretty quiet. I usually don’t have any traffic between midnight and 6am. Then it picks up pretty quickly.

Today was a bit slower than yesterday’s 141, We only had about 95 vehicles come through. But that may change. Jan was told today that once they start fracking we’ll have about 100 sand trucks coming through every day, in addition to the regular traffic. Oh Boy!

But she was also told that all this might go through December, which means we would stay here until we leave for Houston right before Thanksgiving. Hope that works out, as we’d hoped to not move as much this year as we did last year, 4 times in 4 months.

Really glad we didn’t get the gate down the road that guards the railroad crossing. Even up here, about a mile away, the trains are loud coming through. I can imagine being parked about 30 feet from the tracks. The gate guards there just act as crossing guards for the tracks, helping the vehicles to cross safely, but some people just don’t listen.

The guard had one big truck stopped, and another truck came up behind him. The second guy apparently thought the first truck was just talking, so he pulled around and crossed the tracks, missing the oncoming train that he couldn’t see, by just inches.

So far this site has been pretty critterless. A lot of bugs, but nothing bigger. I did however hear some coyotes yipping late this evening, so there’s something around somewhere.

I got the misting system set up today, and it helped cool things down, although it was only about 95. It was 102 back in Webster, near where our home is, so every bit helps.

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Thought for the Day:

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.” — William S. Burroughs

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A New Record . . .

Our first full day on our new gate and we’ve already set a record. We had 141 vehicles come though today. Our previous high score last year was 128.

We’re on a fracking gate, but they also have a couple of rigs getting ready to “spud in” (start to drill) back there too. I suspect once they get all their equipment moved in and the set up done, things will quiet down a bit. I hope.

The GGS guys came by to fill our 550 gallon water tank this morning, a little after I went to bed (7am). In the rush to get us over here and set up, they brought it over empty, and we just used our rig water for a day. A little later, Austin, our GGS support guy, came by to replace our vehicle alarm bell, which had died overnight.

Remember those old service station bells with the hoses you drive across? Well that’s what we have, with the hoses stretched out about 100 feet in each direction. When you have a problem, normally it’s a leaky hose, but this time it was the unit itself. Austin carries spares of pretty much everything, so it was a quick fix.

While he was here, I had him turn up the juice a bit on the generator. With both AC’s running, we were getting 108 volts on one leg and 110 on the other. Pretty low and not good for the AC’s. And if we turned the dryer on at the same time as both AC’s were running, it dropped the 108 voltage below 105, which means my Progressive EMS would kick off because the voltage was too low. I had him turn it up to about 120 which should be fine.

Later, when I get a chance, I’ll go out and play with the frequency setting on the generator. It’s running at about 58.5 Hz according to my Kill-A-Watt, which means our bedroom projector digital clock runs slow. I’ll just take my Kill-A-Watt out to the generator and tweek it a little and get it closer.

Speaking of the Kill-A-Watt, every RV’er should have one of these.

Kill-A-Watt 1

P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

They’re less than $20 and show voltage, amps, watts, frequency, and KWH. It’s on my Ten Things Every RV’er Needs list for the seminars I used give at Nick Russell’s Gypsy Rallies.

Sometime in the next few days, after things settle down here, I’ll probably go to the same every 2-4 days posting schedule that I did last year. It’s hard to do much with “a lot of vehicles came in and a lot of vehicles left”.

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Thought for the Day:

One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child. — Randall Jarrell

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We’re Still Gateworthy . . .

After being told we probably wouldn’t be sent out until tomorrow, the call came about 3:15 to head ‘em up and move ‘em out today. And at about 3:45, we did.

We were sent to what I call the 2nd gate. Right off US-281A and only about 6 miles from the GGS office.

Whitsett Gate 2

And as it turns out, the previous gate guards that work for another company did not know they were being replaced until this afternoon.

We were able to park on the other side from where these guards are parked. This puts our windshield pointing east rather than west into the afternoon sun. It will really help with keeping things cool.

This was what we refer to as a ‘Hot Gate’. We hit the ground working, Jan logging vehicles in and out while I was getting the rig parked and everything set up. We had the usual great support from the Gate Guard Services guys, who had our power, water, and sewer trailers all set up and ready to go.

About 5:30 I drove back over to the Interstate and got us BBQ sandwiches for supper at Choke Canyon BBQ. Turned out to be pretty good.

I went in after supper and tried to sleep for a while before my 11p – 7a shift started but didn’t have much luck with that. But I bet I’ll sleep good next time.

More from the Whitsett Gate tomorrow.

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Thought for the Day:

“The burden upon us is that we are not ruled by men of ordinary ignorance, but of extraordinary ignorance.” – G.K. Chesterton 1922

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Gate Guarding and More . . .

I’ve had some more inquiries about gate guarding and how to get started, so here’s a repost of the info.

When we started last year, we just showed up at the Gate Guard Services yard in Whitsett, TX and told them we wanted to gate guard. We did not call ahead.

We had heard to do it that way because they get so many calls and requests for info that they really don’t pay any attention until you get there in person.

We got there on Thursday, April 5th about 5:30, but every one had already gone home at the office. But the guy working the shop showed us where to park. They have 5 FHU sites and a number of places with power and water. There is no charge for parking there while you’re waiting for a gate or coming off a gate.

The next morning. I went to the office and got our info packets and fingerprint cards. We then drove over to Floresville about 20 miles away and got our fingerprints done at the Sheriff’s Office.

Then we had to drive down to Corpus Christi on Tuesday, April 10th to process our applications and take our security guard tests. We had to wait until Tuesday because they only process apps on Tuesday and Thursday.

Five days later, on Sunday, April 15th, we were on our first gate.

Doing it this way will work in the Spring and Summer, but probably not as well in the Fall and Winter when the all the snowbirds are down in south Texas wanting to gate guard for the winter.

Gate Guarding pays $125 a day or more depending on how busy your gate is. And just to be clear, the $125 is per couple, not per person. The company furnishes you a 11KW diesel generator, diesel to run it, a 500 gallon water tank that they keep filled, and a portable septic system. So even though you are usually out in the middle of nowhere, you have full hookups.

The one real downside to gate guarding is that most gates are 24/7. So one of you has to be on the gate at all times. Some couples do 12 hour shifts, but Jan and I prefer to split it up. She works the gate from 7am to 2pm, I work from 2pm to 6pm, she works from 6pm to 11pm, and then I work from 11pm to 7am. This seems to work for us. Your mileage may differ.

But one thing to keep in mind is that although you’re working 12 hour shifts, you don’t actually WORK that much. Last year we averaged about 80 vehicles a day, and never had more than 130. Based on about 30 seconds per vehicle, you only actually work about 30-45 minutes a day. The rest of the time you’re sitting in the shade reading or playing on the computer. Jan read 84 books in 4 months last year.

For more information you can go back on our blog starting April 5th, 2012 and read about our gate guarding adventures last year. Or just leave me a comment.

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Here’s a list of Gate Guard Companies. The first 4 are the main ones, with GGS the biggest.

Gate Guard Services, L.P.- 361-949-6992

LOMA Rentals, LLC – 817-964-1828

Time Keepers – 830-816-5059 Toll Free – 877-851-7676

Site Watch Gate Guards – 800-561-7202

KC Services – 956-236-5255

Pro Gate Security – 830-776-8666

Oil Field Support Services – 361-815-7050

Trinity – 956-241-1675

Primo Gate Guards – 361-563-9272

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Later in the afternoon it was time for another maintenance chore. Although I clean and wash the AC foam filters every month, it’s been awhile since I cleaned the coils.

Despite the filter, some dust and dirt always gets through and lodges on the fins of the evaporator coil and blocks the air flow, thus reducing the cooling. And with another month of 95+ temps on the gate, we need all the cooling we can get.

AC Coil Cleaning 1

Removing the plastic grille shows the air intake over the coil. The screen wire is my addition. I found that because of the wide-open holes, the filter material would get sucked into the holes and deform, letting air leak by. So a couple of years ago I got some coarse screen wire and just taped it over the vent holes to provide some support for the foam filter.

AC Coil Cleaning 2

AC Coil Cleaning 3

Pulling the screen off, I used the brush adapter for the vacuum to clean all the dirt off the coil.

AC Coil Cleaning 4

Then it was just a matter of putting it all back together and then doing the second one.

Still no new news on our gate. Tentatively we’re supposed to move tomorrow about 2pm, but we’ll see.

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Thought for the Day:

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” – H.L. Mencken

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