Well, it’s Halloween tonight, including here at the gate. Actually I started giving out candy right after midnight. Jan said it was funny to watch the big, burly truck drivers squealing over free candy just like little kids.

And we even decorated.

Halloween on the Gate

Mister just stares at the spider and growls real low, but he’s not afraid of the pumpkin. In fact, he decided he could take it out, and he did. After sitting on the table and looking at it for a few minutes, he made a flying leap about three feet up and three feet out, sunk his claws into it and rode it down.

The pumpkin is made of corduroy and stuffed with foam and he had no trouble breaking the string. It’s hard to imagine a cat this big can jump that high and that far, but he did. Then he just sat on the ground with it between his front paws and looked at it like he was expecting the pumpkin to make a run for it so he could chase it. But after a while he just left it laying there and jumped up on the table and went back to sleep. Mission Accomplished.

Today was grocery shopping day at the Wal-Mart in Pleasanton. As you probably remember from a couple of blogs ago, there was a computer screw-up with Jan’s prescriptions and I ended up not actually paying for them when I checked out. I told the pharmacist that I would settle up with them when I came in today. I offered to give them a credit card number right then, but she said when I came in would be fine.

Well, after paying for my prescription today I went over to the pharmacist’s window to take care of Jan’s bill, only to find out there was no longer a bill to take care of. He laughed and said the computer at the home office was yelling at them twice a day wanting to know why the prescriptions were gone from inventory, but not showing as paid in the system. The pharmacist said he took care of it and don’t worry about it. I mentioned that I had offered them a credit card number over the phone, and he said there was no way to enter that into the system. He said consider it an early Christmas present. So Merry Christmas to me.

The McDonald’s in Pleasant needs to be burnt to the ground so they can just start from scratch with a whole new building and crew. And it’s not just once, it’s every time I go there.

Whenever I get groceries in Pleasanton, I always bring back lunch, either from McDonald’s or from Sonic, or sometimes a split order like today. Stopping first at McD’s, I ordered a Iced Caramel Latte for Jan, 4 Pumpkin Pies as desserts later in the week, and three of the Apple Slice Packets for me. And it took 26! minutes from the time I placed my order until I walked out the door. I saw two groups walk out because they couldn’t get waited on.

In contrast, at the Sonic down the road, I ordered a Chili Cheese Dog and an order of Ched’r Poppers for Jan, and two Corn Dogs and a 44oz Coke Zero for me. And it took 6! minutes ’til the girl had the order at my truck. Now that’s service.

This evening (Thursday) one of the big tanker trucks didn’t turn wide enough and broke our gate.

Broken Gate

He ran up over it and smashed the side of it flat and also tore down some of the fencing. He talked with his company and said they’ll have someone out Friday morning to see about fixing it.

Wrapping up, it now looks like we may not be here quite as long as we thought. Yesterday the new company man told Jan he thought we would only be needed for another week and a half to two weeks, when they’ll be finished up at the frack site. The only question is how this will work for the other two pads that have tankers coming in all day and night carrying out crude. Supposedly they will lock the gate (well, not now until they fix it) and every truck will have to unlock it and then lock it behind them, going and coming. Don’t know how that’s going to go over.

Anyway, it’s possible we’ll be off this gate as much as two weeks before we planned to leave, and it’s probably not worth it to move to another gate for just two weeks. And I’m not sure if Jamie at GGS would want to anyway. So if we do leave early we’ll probably head up to either the Lake Medina or the Colorado River Thousand Trails park until we’re supposed to be back at Galveston Bay RV Resort on the 24th of November.

But, as always, we’ll see how it goes.

Thought for the Day:

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria. — Benjamin Franklin.


Boom or Bust?

or maybe our boom busted?

Well, our big gate traffic increase due to another round of ‘coiled tubing’ never materialized. In fact we had 7 less vehicles today (Tuesday) than we did on Monday.

But the fact that about 5pm a bunch of guys came in with a Wireline rig might mean they’ve got even more problems than I first thought. Wireline is a cable dropped into the well, and used for a number of different things, but none of them usually good at this point in a well’s life cycle. Normally it is used used to lower equipment or measurement devices into the well to check on conditions and look for problems.

So we’re still waiting to here what the problem is.

Yesterday a van full of pipeline workers came thru the gate and an one of the guys made a comment about Mister, who was asleep on the table beside Jan. Now normally we don’t log them in or out so they never have to stop, but this time they slowed down and one of them said "A cat that size would make a good batch of cat gumbo". Jan, of course, wasn’t too happy about this and I guess it showed on her face. Later in the afternoon when I was on the gate, the now-empty van came back by and the driver said that he thought they’d made Jan mad.


Jan had told me what they said, so I looked down at Mister who was still asleep on the table and said,"He may look fat and slow, but he’s really just big and fast. And his favorite thing is to chase dogs three times his size, so if anyone’s bleeding into the gumbo, it probably won’t be him."

"And as far as making my wife mad, you don’t wanna to do that. If you do, she’s gonna be stopping ya’ll every time you come through the gate, and she’s gonna wanna to get everyone’s name, and she’s gonna wanna see everyone’s photo ID. It might take you 10 or 15 minutes to get cleared through every time." Now since these vans come through here 10 or more times a day, and since they’ve usually got as many as 15 workers on board, this could put a real crimp in their work schedule.

The guy kinda gulped and said, "I’ll pass it on".

I’m expecting the candy and flowers to start arriving any time now.

I’ve made another addition to the menus at the top of the page. I now have a tab with basic information about gate guarding, how we got started and what you can expect.

I’ve also added a new item to my “What Were They Thinking?” file. Why didn’t I ever have teachers like this in college?

In addition I’ve added a couple of more recipes to Jan’s Favorites. The first one is another ‘gate’ recipe, i.e. simple, quick, and delicious. It’s Habanero Chile Cheese Mac. You won’t believe how good this is.

The second one is her famous Sausage Balls. We often get together with a big group of friends for Thanksgiving and the first thing everyone wants to know is if Jan is bringing her Sausage Balls.


Thought for the Day:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. – H. L. Mencken


They Broke Our Well . . .

Or at least it seems like it. They’ve been in Production here for a couple of weeks now which means they’re getting crude out, and there’s been a steady stream of tankers in and out ever since. At least until a few days ago, then things slowed down.

Now it turns out they have a problem and are going to have to redo the ‘coiled tubing’ phase again. Don’t know yet if there’s debris in the hole, or a clog of some sort. But the good thing for us is that it makes it more and more likely we’ll be able to stay at this site until we leave on the 23rd of November. Here’s hoping.

Also hopefully we’ll get a little rain (emphasis on little) in the next few days because the dust is getting really bad. Last year they had water trucks that would go though every few days and wet down the roads, but I’ve only seen that happen once, early on right after we got here.

You may have noticed a couple of new tabs at the top of the page: Jan’s Favorite Recipes, and What Were They Thinking?. We get a lot of requests for her recipes I mention here on the blog so now I have a place to put them.

I’m going to start out with some of what she calls her "Gate Recipes", simple, quick, and very good, and then we’ll add more as we go along.

First up, Strawberry 7-Up Cake, Pineapple Angel Food Cake, and her famous Crockpot King Ranch Chicken. Enjoy.

As far as my What Were They Thinking?, it might also be titled How Dumb Can Someone Be?, and will be my spot to illustrate some of the rampant stupidity at large in the world today. For some strange reason, there’ll be a lot of government stuff on there. Who knew?

Under the heading of Where’s Landon, he’s now firmly of the opinion he doesn’t like his picture taken. So much so that he goes out of his way to avoid the camera.

See if you can pick him out in this photo.

Where's Landon Hint: He’s the one in the middle with his back to the camera. He stayed that way the whole time.

There's Landon

But Brandi finally got a shot when he ran up to her.

Had something a little strange happen at the Wal-Mart in Pleasanton yesterday (Friday). I was there getting groceries and also picking up Jan’s 4 prescriptions. Told the young lady that I would just pay for them when I checked out with my groceries, so she clipped one of those anti-theft thingies you see on clothes, to the bag and off I went. When I got to the checkout, the lady removed the thingie and scanned the prescriptions in. The register beeped and said "Already Scanned In". In my mind I figured it was because the pharmacy had already started scanning them when I told them I’d pay up front. So the cashier hits a couple of keys and then scans them again. Everything went thru fine and off I went.

Later in the evening, after I went to bed, I got a voicemail from the pharmacy asking me to call them. When I did this morning they ask ‘politely’ if I had paid for the prescriptions. Told them as far as I knew I had. Said the cashier had taken the thingie off and scanned them through. I did mention about the "Already Scanned In" problem. She ask if I still had my receipt and could I check it. I said I’d dig it up and call her back.

And as it turns out I almost got $82.84 worth of free prescriptions. On the receipt it showed they were scanned in, but then immediately voided. I never noticed the price change because I had looked at the running total after they were first scanned in and the amount seemed right. I didn’t look the final total since I would have had to take my glasses off to see it on the small screen.

I told the pharmacist that I wouldn’t be back over there until next Thursday, and did she want me to just give her a credit card number over the phone. She said no problem, just take care of it when I come in next week.

And I almost got away with it.

Thought for the Day:

We the people are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution. – Abraham Lincoln, 1859

or as my friend David Cross says:

All the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME.


It must have been the Nopales . . .

A number of you have been doing your Amazon shopping through our blog, and your support is much appreciated.

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It’s been a busy three days, but not gate-wise. For the last week or so we’ve been doing about 30-35 vehicle a day, with today (Wednesday) doing about 45. A nice change from the 300 a day we had at the peak. But I sure hope it doesn’t get much slower so they don’t get the idea they don’t need us. We’d really like to stay here until we leave for Houston on the 24th of November. We’ll see.

For the last week or so I’ve been fighting problems with my eyeglasses. The ear pieces are those spring-loaded type, and they both just came apart within a week of each other. I tried a number to ways to glue them back together, Gorilla Glue, SuperGlue, contact cement, even ShoeGoo. But nothing would hold for more than a day or two.
Then I got a bright idea. My new frames were identical to my old ones, and I still had them, so I would just take the ear pieces off the old ones and install them on new ones. Piece of cake, right? Well, no. The taking apart thing went just fine. The getting them reinstalled part, not so much.

Holding the glasses frame in one hand, the ear piece in the other, the tweezers holding the screw in the other hand, and of course the little tiny screwdriver in the other…well I think you see the problem.

I could never get everything lined up and the screw started. So after about 30 minutes of wasted effort, I gave up and went with the Nerd method. Holding them together with tape. I figured I would drive into Pleasanton on Monday and let the Wal-Mart Vision Center take a crack at them.

So after handing them off, I did some shopping, picking up some cold stuff so we wouldn’t have to worry about it tomorrow in San Antonio. Getting back to the Vision Center about 20 minutes later, they had me all ready to go. Turns out they have a special little screw-starter to make things easier. They didn’t have any for sale, but I found one on Amazon I’m going to order.

Coming back home I saw this sign again and finally had a chance to take a picture of it.

Pleasanton RV Park

What does it say about your town when the ‘Premier Gated Community’ is an RV Park? Actually it’s probably our kind of place.

Tuesday afternoon about 1pm we headed in San Antonio for our combined birthday celebration. Both of ours are in October, mine on the 5th and Jan’s this Friday on the 25th. Does make it more convenient when we have to renew our driver’s licenses in South Dakota.

Anyway, our first stop was at the Palladium IMAX theater out on I-10 West. This place is huge. Besides the 16 screens and the usual movie food, it has a gelato stand, a Starbucks, two restaurants and two bars. Jan had to try the Pumpkin Gelato and pronounced it fantastic. If they started renting out rooms, you could live here.

The reason we passed so many closer theaters is that we heard if you were going to seen "Gravity", the new Sandra Bullock-George Clooney movie, see it in IMAX and 3D. And this was the only place in town that had both.

We’ve seen IMAX movies before, and we’ve seen 3D movies before, but this was our first IMAX 3D one. And it was worth the trip. And the movie itself was great. The action started very quickly and just never let up until the end. Jan compared it to an Indiana Jones movie that just never stops.

The story is about a Space Shuttle Hubble Telescope repair mission with Sandra Bullock, the Mission Specialist, doing the repair in space, and George Clooney as the Shuttle Pilot. And then everything goes terribly wrong.

Although the movie has a lot of special effects, they take a backseat to the story and the characters. And we did like the fact that they didn’t overdo the 3D part just so you wouldn’t forget the movie was in 3D.
Having worked on the Shuttle Program for 10 years at Johnson Space Center, there were a few things I noticed that wouldn’t have happened that way in space, but nothing so glaring that it interfered with my enjoyment of the movie.

This one is a must-see.

Getting out of the movie about 4:15, our next stop was a nearby SuperCuts so Jan could get her hair trimmed. I always kind of dread taking Jan to get her hair done, because if they don’t do it like she wants, she comes out very unhappy, and then for some reason I end up very unhappy. Strange how that works out.

Then it was on to La Fonda on Main for dinner.

Jan had this Beef Chile Relleno with a Verde Chicken Enchilada.

La Fonda Food Jan
And I had the Pork Carnitas with a Avocado Bowl. The pork is resting on a grilled nopales (cactus) leaf

La Fonda Food Greg

For dessert we split a piece of their delicious Tres Leches.

La Fonda Food Tres Leches

And here’s the beautiful Birthday Girl herself.

La Fonda Birthday Girl

Our meal was as delicious as usual and we always enjoy going back.

Now it was shopping time with Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, and Barnes and Noble on the list. Finishing up about 9:30, our last stop was the Pilot/Flying J on the way home. They had Jan’s Pumpkin Spice coffee, but had apparently run out and stopped selling the Pumpkin Spice Cappuccino that they had last time. When I mentioned to a young lady cleaning up nearby that it wasn’t even Halloween yet, much less Thanksgiving, and they’d already stopped selling it, she said, "Yes, it’s very popular and everyone waits for us to start selling it every year."

When I said that maybe that meant that they should, you know, order more maybe, she just looked at me like I had two heads, or something.  It’s amazing that some places can even stay in business.

Wrapping up today, I’ve had some sort of stomach bug all day. Don’t know if it’s just something going around, or if it’s something I ate. Personally I blame the nopales on my pork carnitas dish last night. Yeah, that’s it.

I mentioned the other day that one of the truck drivers had seen a bobcat near our gate so here’s Mister doing his best ‘Bobcat Bait’ impression.

Mister Bobcat Bait

After all the guy did say the bobcat was smaller than Mister, but we’ll keep a close eye on him anyway.\
Thought for the Day:

We’re Not Retreating, We’re Just Advancing in a Different Direction – General Douglas MacArthur


Nice Days, Cold Nights

or They’re Working On It.

The weather here has been really nice for the last several days, sunny with daytime times in the high 70’s/low 80’s, and nightime temps in the low 60’s, although last night it got down to a nippy 47 degrees. And says those ranges should hold for the next week or so. Nice.

As of yesterday (Saturday) we have five weeks left here on the gate, and Jan’s just giddy. But not only because of that, but because this coming Tuesday is our 2nd (and last) day off the gate. Last time it was for our anniversary, but this time it’s a combined birthday celebration. Mine’s on the 5th and hers is the 25th, and right now we’re in that 20 day period when we’re the same age every year.

Last time we had steak at Magic Time Machine, but now we’re jonesin’ for some good Mexican, and our ‘go to’ place here in San Antonio is La Fonda on Main. Opened by two sisters in 1930, it has grown (moved across the street in 1934) to one of the best Mexican restaurants in San Antonio.

Here’s what their website says about their history.

It is fascinating to hear how popular La Fonda has been as a dining spot of history’s most celebrated people. Every famous officer in World War II seems to have eaten here, including Generals Eisenhower, MacArthur and Hill. Even American presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson enjoyed La Fonda’s fare. Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Yul Brenner, Veronica Lake, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, along with many other stars, visited this historic restaurant.

Between the history and the delicious food, it reminds us a lot of La Posta in Las Cruces, NM, and we’re really looking forward to it.

The other thing we’re looking forward to is seeing ‘Gravity’ in IMAX 3D. Like our last day off, we’ll see the movie first in the afternoon, then dinner, and then Wal-Mart, Sam’s, whatever, finishing off with coffee/cappuccino/scones on the way home (at a Pilot/Flying J, of course).

On the Halloween front, Brandi and Landon are in the thick of it. Landon had his Halloween party at his daycare, and this year he’s a Power Ranger.

Landon at Festival 2

Landon at Festival 3

Look at those muscles. Guess he’s been working out.

In past years he’s been a dragon and a giraffe.

Landon Dragon 3

Landon Trick or Treating
Brandi’s been doing pumpkin carvin’ thing and it came out really good, I think. She said it’s the first time she’s done one like this.
Brandi Pumpkin 1

Brandi Pumpkin 2


The other day I mentioned a problem solved (using vinegar to get the caliche crust off our glasses) and a problem found. But I forgot to say what the ‘problem found’ was.

Our PowerGear door step has stopped working. Well, it’s kind of working, I can hear the motor running, but the step doesn’t move. In fact you can push the step in and out by hand, so I guess the linkage has come loose. The strange thing is that it did it since we’ve been parked here on the gate. Seems like I remember a cotter pin on the linkage that may have broken off.

I know some people disable their step so it just stays out when they’re parked for a while, and I did this early on. But I found that after not being used for 2 or 3 months it didn’t want to work right anyway. You just can’t win.

I don’t think I’ll be able to look at it until we at least get back to the yard, and maybe not until we’re back in Houston. Because I had to use the levelers to compensate for the uneven ground here, the door side of the coach is really close to ground and there’s not much room to get under it.

Under the heading of "They’re working on it", this is what Nick Russell and I always say about problems with Verizon’s cell/data service. Because that’s what we’re always told when we complain to them. But this time it’s a good thing.

When we got here at the gate, we had two bars of 3G service, with about 500 Kbps data rate. Not great, but not bad, considering. Then about two weeks ago, the data signal would just be off all night. Nothing, and then it would come back on about 5am.

Made it real hard to get a blog posted. But then last week I noticed on my phone that I was getting a consistent 3 bars of signal and says I now getting between 1.1 and 1.2 Mbps, more than double. YAY!

This is the same tower I was hitting last year on one our gates using our Wilson Cell Phone booster, from 19 miles away! When I first set it up, I was disappointed to only be getting 1X speed, but figured it was due to the distance. But a few days later I was driving right by the tower on the Interstate and discovered it really was only 1X.

Then about two weeks into our stay at that gate, suddenly it went to 3G. So I guess they really are ‘working on it" sometimes. Come on 4G!

On a final note, we apparently have a new neighbor in the area, a bobcat. One of truck drivers saw it loping along the shoulder of the highway (US281), passing in front of the gate. At first he thought it was a coyote, but with a better look he said it was a small bobcat. By small, he said it was smaller than Mister.

When Mister outside with us, he’s on a leash and we never leave him alone, but as Nick says, the bobcat kills for a living, so we’ll have to be a little more cautious.


Thought for the Day:

A fool and his money are … standing in front of the Apple store. (Sorry, Nick.)


Groundhog Gate . . .

or The Ceremonial Changing of the Hoodie

Although our days have been very nice, in the high 70’s and low 80’s, our nights are getting a bit nippy, sometimes with a vengeance. Last week we were still having nights in the mid/high 70’s until the recent cold front came through.

A few nights ago the Weather Channel said the overnight low was supposed to be 62 degrees, but at 4am, it was still 77. So I’m thinking, Boy, did they screw up this forecast. But a few minutes after 4 a little north wind started up. Then the temp started falling like the bottom dropped out of the thermometer.

And by 4:30 it was 63 degrees! 14 degrees in 30 minutes. Maybe I shouldn’t have insulted their forecasting skills after all. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a drop like that.

Anyway, when Jan comes out to relieve me a little before 7am, it’s still pretty chilly, about 60 degrees, and for some reason, we only have one hooded jacket, so every morning before I go in to go to bed, we exchange the hoodie jacket outside.

In retrospect, this story was a long way to go to get nowhere.

As far as Groundhog Gate, as usual Jan has been counting the days until we head back to Houston, probably since before we even got here. So a couple of weeks ago she gleefully told me we only six weeks until we leave the gate. But after thinking for a moment I told here I didn’t think that was right, that it was more like 7 or 8 weeks. She said, No, she was sure that it was only six weeks, but she would go inside and check. Then a few minutes later, I hear some VERY unladylike language emanating from the rig. She had discovered I was right.

Then the other day she was watching a TV ad that mentioned it was only three weeks ’til Halloween, and I hear another "NNOOOOOOOOOO!". Turned out she forgot she was watching a DVR’d show. Oops.

I told her later that this was a Groundhog Gate, where the day never changes. Trucks come in, trucks come out. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s windy. It’s just the same day, over and over and over again.

Or at least it seems like it some times.

Yesterday I finally completed a mammoth 22 hour, 1.7 GB download. And it only took me two tries. The first time it got to about 20% before it froze, but made it all the way though the second time. What I was doing was downloading the latest 2014 map update for the Garmin 1490 GPS that we use in our truck. And at 1.7 GB it’s probably the largest file I’ve ever downloaded.

They have a program called Garmin Express that, after you plug in your GPS to the computer, tells you what updates you need and sets you up to download them. The only real problem is that the Garmin Express software does not let you pause or resume the download, or pick up where you left off if you get knocked off line. So you just have to start it up and hope for the best. But it’s done for this year at least.

Thought for the Day:

There’s a saying that you can make something foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-foolproof.


Happy, Happy, Happy . . .


First off, Happy Birthday to my friend Nick Russell, although by the time you read this, his birthday will be yesterday.

But it’s the thought that counts, right?

And Nick thought of me today when he called because he needed help with his black tank.

I figure he called because when he thinks of #2, I’m #1 on his list.

Don’t I feel special.

Well, after things slowed down here a bit, they’ve really picked back up. We had almost 80 vehicles today, a big jump from the 25 of a few days ago. Turns out the drill rig about a mile south of here, but on the same land, is finishing up and now they’re getting ready to frack. So they’re getting set up to pump the water from our frack pond up to another one closer by the new site.

Under the heading of a problem solved and a problem found . . .

Our cooling mist system does a great job of keeping us cool on the hotter days, but it does have a downside. It tends to get your glasses wet. Normally this isn’t a big problem, but combined with the caliche dust blowing around, it becomes a problem.

Caliche is basically limestone, and when it settles on your wet glasses and then dries, it turns hard as rock. And becomes very difficult to get off. So you end up with a hazy film on your lenses. A truck driver last year told us to soak them overnight in a solution of Dawn Dish Soap and water, and while this helps, sometimes a bad encrustation just won’t come off.

So after thinking on the problem for a while, I finally remembered some basic chemistry. Most acids will eat limestone. And vinegar is an acid, acetic acid, so I thought I’d give it a try.

And it worked. I dampened a rag with some vinegar and then carefully wiped the lenses several times, and that took care of the problem. And we probably won’t have any more problems with that this year, because with the cooler temps, we haven’t used the misting system in a week or so.

Jan fixed two of my favorite dishes this week. Well, one of them is a new favorite, anyway. First up was a big batch of her Crockpot King Ranch Chicken, big chunks of chicken, beans, Rotel Habanero Tomatoes, and pieces of corn tortillas.

HMMM Good. And really spicy, too.

My new favorite is a 7-UP Strawberry Cake, iced with CoolWhip. We both decided it would be even better with crushed pineapple in it, so next time a small can of that goes it too.

Finishing up, a Landon fix, what else. Landon loves Starbucks. He and his daddy Lowell have been going there since he was a baby.

Landon at Starbuck's

Of course, Landon gets hot chocolate, but he tells everyone he’s drinking coffee like his daddy.

Thought for the Day:

Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.


A New Low . . .

or Why We Hate Louisiana.

Today (Saturday) set a new low vehicle count for here at the gate. We only had 40 logged vehicles through. And that eclipsed yesterday’s low of 49. Of course that really means 80 or 98 since there’s an In and Out for all of them. At least eventually. Some vehicles (and the drivers/riders too, of course) stay overnight or even days/weeks at a time since there are living quarters (trailers) onsite.

And of course, sometimes a large piece of equipment will come in, followed by a pickup truck. The equipment is left, sometimes for several weeks or more, and then the two drivers leave together in the pickup truck. That means days, weeks, months? later when it finally leaves, we’re left madly pawing through old logs trying to find when the equipment came in so we can log it out. The new drivers aren’t any help because, either they don’t remember, or they weren’t the ones that brought it in in the first place.

Ahhh, a day in the life of a gate guard. This is one problem I’m hoping my new computer logging system will fix.

And as far as vehicles go, it will be interesting to see how Monday’s Federal holiday affects things. We might end up with a new new low count.

The reason we hate Louisiana (well, not whole state, just the DMV part of it) is that they don’t issue front tags. And Louisiana being a big oil state, a lot of the vehicles that come through here don’t have a front tag, which means we have to try and recognize vehicles by make, model, and color. And sometimes we get it wrong. And then the truck goes by and we realize we don’t’ recognize the tag number.

So we have to mark the description info down on the log and try to catch them on the way back out. More fun.

I called Tan Mar yesterday to get a vacuum truck out there to pump out our sewage system tank.

Gate Guard Lot 8
The overflow is starting to fill the small white tank which means it’s time to pump it all out. Since the overflow tank contains a large dose of chlorine tablets, the liquid is considered ‘gray water’ and can be dumped out on the ground, but it’s better to get a pumpout if you can.

Brandi sent over some new Landon pics. Yesterday was ‘Spooktacular Pajama Friday’ at his daycare, so here’s his contribution. BTW his shirt says ‘Trick or Treat. Smell My Feet’

Spooktacular Landon
And today they went with friends to the Katy Rice Harvest Festival and Landon got to ride some of the carnival rides.

Landon at the Fair 4
Landon at the Fair 1

Looks like he’s having fun.

Working on my Gate Guard Logging Program (Patent Pending) has renewed my itch to try my hand at writing an Android app. But every time I think I have a good idea for one, I find someone’s already beat me to it. Case in point, when we go to the movies, I always silence my cell phone so Nick can’t call me in the middle of the film, (well, he can call. I just won’t hear it) as he has a couple of times. (I don’t know how he knows.). But then after the movie’s over I sometimes forget to turn it back on until hours later, only to find I’ve missed a couple of calls, usually from Nick because he’s broke something else.

So I thought there should be an app for that, and that I should write it. But one again someone beat me to it.

It’s called Silent Timer Free. And it looks like this.

Silent Timer Free
It allows you to set a duration that the phone is silenced, or a start/stop time. And you can store your settings. Neat little app. Check it out.

Now I have to think of another app idea.

Thought for the Day:
TSA – handling more packages than FedEx

Not Much . . .

has been happening on the gate the last few days. It’s been really quiet. We’re only getting about 50-60 vehicles a day through here, and the weather’s been very nice too.

Our days are pretty much in the high 80’s / low 90’s and hopefully will stay there for a while. And while we have had nights down into the high 40’s, recently they’ve been in the 60’s which is nice.

On the Landon front, he’s started playing soccer and Brandi and Lowell just got his first scouting report.

Landon's Soccer Report

Seems like they’re pretty proud.

Also, Landon got his haircut the other day and has now decided he’s too big to sit in the Firetruck chair and now wants to sit in the ‘big boy’ chair.

Landon's Haircut

That’s about it for now from the suburbs of beautiful Whitsett, TX. So for added entertainment value I’ve reposted our visit to Trinity Site, location of the first atomic bomb test.


Thought for the Day:

“The Devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy ears. He comes as everything you’ve every wished for.”


“The light of a thousand suns” . . .

Originally posted on April 3, 2010

We got up at 6:30am this morning (man, that’s early!) and after grabbing breakfast at the hotel, we headed about 85 miles south of Albuquerque to the town of San Antonio, NM.  San Antonio is the jumping-off place to Stallion Gate, the northwest entrance to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) and Trinity Site.  I used to enter WSMR thru this gate back in the early 80’s when coming back from White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) in Los Cruces.

But before we left San Antonio I stopped and filled up at the one and only gas station in town. We had read that they also have fantastic homemade fudge, and it looked great. So we decided to stop back by on our way out of town.

After making the 12 mile drive out to SR 525 we turned south and entered Stallion Gate about 3 miles later. They had people handing out directions and security guards checking I.D.

Then it was another 14 miles out to Trinity Site itself.

Along the way we came across this sign several times.


If I hadn’t seen this sign in 2007 when we visited the WSMR Missile Museum I would have been very confused. This is an Oryx. And Oryx are native to Africa, specifically the Kalahari desert area. So what the heck were they doing here?

It turns out that in late 70’s, 93 Oryx were brought over from Africa and their offspring were introduced into the White Sands Missile Range. They were expected to stay on the Range, but apparently the Oryx didn’t read the signs and they began to wander far and wide as now animals have been spotted from 60 miles south of Albuquerque all the way down to West Texas.

And without any natural predators their population exploded. The coyotes and mountain lions in the area were no match for the large antelope with their razor-sharp horns.

Someone then looked at importing the Oryx’s natural enemy. But this came to a screeching halt when it was discovered that the Oryx’s natural enemy were lions. And no one could get the lions to promise to stay on the Range either.

So now there are over 5000 Oryx in the White Sands area, more than there are in the Kalahari.

It’s not smart to mess with Mother Nature.

Arriving at the Trinity Site parking area about 10 am, we found a large number of visitors already there.

Making our way to the entrance, we encountered Jumbo.


Originally it was 25 feet long, 12 feet in diameter, and weighed 214 tons!

This is what it looked like 1945.

Jumbo 2

Before testing the first A-bomb, called Fat Man, scientist were worried about whether the bomb would actually work the first time.

The bomb was to be triggered by a large conventional explosion which would then trigger the chain reaction. But, if the chain reaction didn’t occur, they didn’t want the precious plutonium scattered all over the area. But by the time of the first test, scientist were more confident of the bomb’s success, and Jumbo wasn’t used. Later the Air Force detonated 8 500 pound bombs in Jumbo, blowing out the ends as seen here.

Next we made the 1/2 mile walk to the fenced-in area of Ground Zero itself. There in front of us was the marker commemorating the first A-bomb.



Nearby are the remains of the 100 foot tower that held the bomb before the test.

TowerRemains 1

TowerRemains 2

This shows what a 10 million degree fireball will do to solid steel. And here’s what the tower looked like before.

Fat Man Tower

Also inside the fenced area was a mockup of the Fat Man bomb itself.

Fat Man 2

Fat Man

There’s a joke here, but I won’t go there.

Ground Zero is littered with Trinitite, a green rock/glass, created by the searing heat as it fused the sand into glass. It is a Federal Offense to remove any of this from the area.


Trinity Site is an eerie place to visit. It’s hard to imagine the destructive forces unleashed here, even hotter than the surface of the sun. On the other hand, it’s hard to tell anything ever happened here.

The scrub grass looks the same here as it does miles away. There is no crater remaining. In fact the original crater was only about 4 feet deep and 240 feet in diameter, more of a small depression, rather than a distinct crater.

The observers were in a bunker about two miles away when the bomb went off. Windows were blown out 120 miles away and the shockwave was felt 160 miles away. Other observers, 10 miles away, said they could feel the heat, like opening up an oven door.

To conceal the test, the Army said that a munitions storage area had accidently exploded at the Alamogordo Bombing Range. The secret wasn’t revealed until the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th.

Leaving the site about 11:30 am, we were glad we had come early. There was a solid line of cars, about a mile long, lined up at the gate waiting to get in.


Arriving back in San Antonio, we decided to eat lunch at the Owl Cafe and Bar, one of only two restaurants in town. I had read about their great green chile cheeseburgers and we wanted to give them a try.

The place was already pretty busy and we waited about 10 minutes to put in our orders. A little later waiters were telling their tables that the food would be a “long” time, as a tour bus had come thru and they were being served first. Well, didn’t we feel special!

While waiting, I pulled out my Blackberry Storm 2 and started checking the Internet for recent reviews of this place. And they were uniformly bad. After talking it over, I left a $5 bill for my ice tea and we hit the road.

To the gas station right next door with the great fudge. And this time the reviews were right. The fudge is fantastic.

About 10 miles down the road we stopped at K-Bob’s Steakhouse, a western chain of restaurants. And I had a fantastic green chile cheeseburger, so there!

After topping off the tank at the station next door, we headed for Gallup, NM where we are going to spend the night.

Tomorrow, on our way back to Las Vegas, we plan on stopping off at the Petrified Forest National Park about 65 miles west of Gallup. The Painted Desert is also part of this, so we have a lot to see.

And now I have some sad news to report.

Moose is gone. Or rather, Moose 2 is gone.


This is 2nd Moose Antenna that has been stolen by nefarious moosenapping thieves, probably to be stripped for parts and sold on the black market.

He will be sorely missed, but quickly replaced by Moose 3. Or maybe Mickey Mouse, or an M&M.

Fame is fickle.

Who knew Mister had a Fan Club . . .

or Kind of A Techie Blog.

Well, we’ve had our first few pretty chilly nights here on the gate, at least chilly in comparison to our normal nighttime 70’s and 80’s.

Friday night it only went down to about 66, but we had a pretty steady 15 mph north wind all night which gave us a nippy 55 degree wind chill factor. And since I was only wearing jeans and a t-shirt, it got cold fast, until I dug out a hooded long-sleeve sweatshirt.

Then on Saturday night, it went down to 59, not too bad, no wind, but there was a lot of moisture in the air so you ended up damp and cold, not a good combination.

Then last night it got a bit worse, with a temp of 49 along with a little wind. But this time I was a little more prepared, with a long sleeve denim shirt, along with the hooded sweatshirt. But I was still cold.

So tonight, Monday, I’m ready. I’ve got on a t-shirt, the long-sleeve denim shirt, the hooded sweatshirt, and a sleeveless insulated vest, as well as sweat pants under my jeans. I look like a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy (like I didn’t already) and the Michelin Tire guy, and I’m screwed if I have to use the bathroom, but I’m finally WARM.

I realize that for you folks up in the Midwest and Northwest with the snow and ice storms, this all seems like a bunch of wussy whining, but there’s a reason Jan and I are essentially snowbirds. It’s cold up there.

Of course it doesn’t help that I’m just sitting here, and the only exercise I’m getting is writing on the log sheets, and occasionally getting up to get the name, company, and tag number of a new vehicle. Most of the time we recognize the regulars and already have their info, so we just need to write them in the log along with their time In or Out.

But along with the cold nights, comes the upside. The Fall days here are just great, low to mid 80’s with a lot of sun. It’s actually been cool enough so that Mister pretty much spends all afternoon outside, just sleeping on the table next to me. I usually don’t even bother hooking up his lease since as long as I’m out here, here he stays.

But this has led to Mister having his own fan club. Since with the cooler weather we’re not running the fan and the misting system, he’s more visible and the workers see him as they drive by, and then stop and come over. They take pictures of him, and then I have to take pictures of them holding or petting him. There’s also a lot of pointing out the window as the trucks drive by.

But even with all his notoriety, MIster always insists that I let everyone know that at 30 pounds, he’s not fat. He’s just big-boned and fluffy.

Man, that’s a lot of ‘fluffy’.

Mister Outside in Chair

I wonder if that will work for Nick and I? Probably not. Neither of us is very fluffy.

One thing I’ve been doing with all my free time sitting out here is that I’ve been writing a program on my laptop to computerize the log system here at the gate. At first I thought I’d write it as an Android app and use it on our Kindle Fire, but having to type in all the starting information on everyone would be a pain on the Kindle keyboard, so I decide the laptop was a better idea.

I created two databases, one containing the vehicle tag numbers, driver first and last names, and the company name, and the other database is the actual log information. This one is used to track the vehicle ins and outs, and contains the tag number, driver name, number of riders, whether they’re going in or out, and the date and time. I also have another date field in the format of yyyy/mm/dd, i.e. 2013/10/07. This allows me to easily sort by the date, which the 10/07/2013 format does not, at least not without a lot of extra code. And since program will generate the date in any form, it’s easier this way.

At this point the program lets me enter the tag/company/driver data into the vehicle database, and then search the data by tag, company, or driver. It also lets me log a vehicle in or out quick and easy, by just typing in the first few characters of the tag, selecting the correct one (if more than one) from the screen, and then clicking In or Out. All info is then written to the log database and it’s done. Only takes a few seconds.

Besides saving a lot of handwriting, log sheets blowing away, getting wet, etc., this takes care of a bigger problem. Sometimes workers stay on site for days, a week, or even two weeks before they leave the gate. So we may end up pawing through dozens of pages of log sheets looking when they came in so we can sign them out on the same line. It doesn’t help that they usually don’t remember what day they come in, either.

If a vehicle comes in that we don’t have the info for yet, it still lets us log them in using only the tag number. Then, using the edit feature, we can update the log with the correct info when we have it. It’s still a work in progress, but it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

Well, I guess I’m actually sitting out on the street, so that one doesn’t work, and I still seem to get in trouble. So just forget what I said.

Let’s just go with, It’s Fun.


And now for more than you probably ever wanted to know about repairing a Splendide Control Module Board. If you’re bored, just skip to the funny Thought for the Day at the end.

Many of you have read about Nick Russell’s problem with his Splendide Washer/Dryer combo. Or rather, Miss Terry’s, since she’s the one who had to go to the Laundromat after it died.

The symptom was that the drum wouldn’t turn in either wash or dry mode. So after Nick made the obligatory phone call to me, I had him check to see if it did the same thing in all the different wash cycles, i.e. Normal, Permanent Press, etc. This was to eliminate a problem with the timer switch itself. After having him check a few other things with no luck, my next thought was maybe that the drive belt had broken, so I told him to call Westland Sales and see what they said before we tore into it any further.

Sam at Westland said he had very seldom seen a belt break and that it probably just came off the pulleys. But after Nick and Terry (mostly Terry) pulled out the washer and removed the back, they found the belt was just fine, not broken and still on the pulleys.

So now I started digging into the repair manual and had Nick (mostly Terry) start checking readings with their volt/ohm meter. After a few false starts and bad readings (mostly Nick), we found the motor itself was good and the problem finally came down to the Control Module Board.

I had a bad feeling about this.

I remembered last year when I was working on my Splendide and ordering parts, the guy at Westland said there were some parts that were no longer available for this model (the same one both Nick and I have: the WD802DM).

And after Nick called Westland back, it turns out that my memory was correct. There were none to be had. And the Internet, and even eBay didn’t offer any help, either.

The Westland guy said there were some people who for $750-800 would take a newer model board and use parts from it to fix your old board. But since a new Splendide (with a new warranty was only (ONLY) $1100, this didn’t really make sense.

The Westland also said that a lot of the time the problem with the boards was one or both of the two relays on it. So before Nick shelled out $1100 for a new washer I told him to Priority Mail me the board and let me take a look at it. Maybe I could find new relays and replace them. For $1100 it was worth a shot.

Receiving the board a few days later, and removing the circuit board from the housing, this is what I found.

Splendide Board 1

One of the legs of what turned out to be the power supply’s full-wave rectifier had overheated and melted the solder off the pad. In fact it had actually burned the copper circuit trace pad off the board. There was no connection between the component leg and the circuit board. Maybe this would be easier than I thought to fix.

Splendide Board 2

My first thought was that maybe something had shorted on the board and caused too much current to flow, overheating and melting the joint. But a thorough examination of the board showed no other damaged or overheated components which should have been the case if something had shorted.

So my next thought was a cold or bad solder joint. A cold joint is one that just didn’t get heated or soldered correctly. It may have been a little dirt or grease in that area, or maybe something else, but the result is a weak joint.

And a weak joint has a higher resistance than it should. And that means more current flows through there, and more current means more heat, and more heat means an higher resistance, and a higher resistance means more current . . . and you get the picture.

Poof! A burned-out joint. This process is called “thermal runaway” and you see it a lot in boards like this that handle a lot of power, like driving a motor.

I decided that before I fooled with swapping out relays, or anytime else, it was probably worthwhile to repair the joint and send it back to Nick to try it out first.

Since the underlying circuit pad was burned away, I decided to just bypass the trace altogether and run a new wire between the damaged component leg and the leads on either side of it. Using a piece of stranded wire, I tinned it (covered it in solder) and made good, solid joints on all three legs.

Splendide Board 3

I doesn’t look really pretty but it will do the job.

So after Nick and Terry finally landed at the Verde Valley Thousand Trails, I put the board in the mail back to them.

And as it turned out, I made two people very happy. Miss Terry doesn’t have to trudge down to the park laundry anymore, and Nick didn’t have to spent $1100. I know that would make me happy. Glad I could do it.

But I also had fun doing this kind of stuff again. I started out repairing radios and TV’s in our garage when I was about 14, and always enjoyed tracking down a problem and fixing it.

And with Nick around I get a lot of practice.


Thought for the Day:

"Unless we each conform, unless we obey orders, unless we follow our leaders blindly, there is no possible way we can remain free."  Frank Burns,  M.A.S.H