On the Fence

I’m on the fence about some things tonight.

This blog for one. As many fellow gate guards have recently written, we’ve been told not write on our blogs about anything referring to/but not limited to (that seems to leave a rather wide open door):

  1. the equipment used
  2. the name of the company drilling on site
  3. information about drilling and fracing
  4. the amount of traffic coming and going on site
  5. our activities while on site
  6. the identity of the visitors coming and going
  7. the oil company’s communications with us
  8. information about the traffic logs
  9. any information about the company we are assigned to
  10. photos

While many of these points are rather obvious and clearly inappropriate, all 10 points taken as a whole and adding “not limited to” I would say pretty much eliminates writing about gate guarding – period.

All my activities are “on site”. I don’t have any activity off site, since, as most of you know, I only leave once every month or two. I think I’ve already written about all I have to say on Walmart and H.E.B and the Second Hand Grocery Store. 😀

So… I have to give it some thought. I may take the Cabbages and Kings route and talk of other things or just stop altogether.

I have this free speech issue.

Everyone we’ve ever worked for has had access to Fork with no complaints.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a single negative thing and I’ve always thought this blog was a pretty good ambassador for both the industry and the company that employs us.

Tonight I’ll write and then re-think what course to take for the future. To those of you who been so kind to read, between 2oo – 300 every day –  now nearing the 100,000 mark, – I thank you and it’s been my honor. 😀

Before last week, I would have agreed with Jarod Kintz:

Neighbors, I’m on the fence about them.

One typical aspect of this job is that you and your partner are pretty much flying solo. In nearly 2 years, we’ve never shared a gate or a spot with other gate guards, although I know some folks who have.

We learned, as soon as we got here (I will no longer say where we are except that it’s a safe bet we’re still in Texas) that a second rig (company to remain unnamed) was going in behind us – really close behind us – about 20 feet – with their own gate guards.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It’s sort of like when your neighbor’s house goes on the market and you start praying for someone who mows their lawn occasionally and doesn’t spit tobacco over your fence or poison your dog.

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Our neighbors and their rig are on in the middle and left. We’re in the middle on the right with ours. This photo of our current, undisclosed location was taken off the property, which is why it’s so tiny. 😀

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Anyway, once again, we’re walkin’ in high cotton. James and Marylee are absolutely the nicest neighbors we could have hoped for. I have no idea if they would say the same about us? They don’t bring a computer with them so we’ll never know! 😉

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Everything has changed. New blogging rules, new neighbors and no cotton!

The day after my High Cotton post, I got up to what looked like snow everywhere. I have no idea why it was just cut off and not picked but I do know that Heidi and James both nearly had heart-attacks looking up and finding me walking in the middle of the freshly cut field of cotton.

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I received a kind, but thorough, talking to from H about the massive number of untold dangers that were most certainly slithering and crawling about in the disaster zone that they had, only hours before, called home.

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I didn’t meet anything  dangerous out there but you can be certain, I know when I’m licked. I haven’t wandered off again and I’ve stopped taking photos. And I’ve stopped posting under gate guarding.

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How We Got LIT

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We shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

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Picking up where I left off in There and Back (But Not) Again, we left Oregon in mid-December of 2010.

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We  raced (well, as fast as we could on the narrow two lane roads in a 32 foot Class A – towing) across the Siskuyou’s just hours ahead of a winter snow storm.

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We made the 1300 hundred mile drive from Gold Beach to my sister’s home on the outskirts of Tucson in 2 days. There were warning signs all along the way.

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Even the names of the tiny towns made us wonder if it was foreshadowing?

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After spending a wonderful Christmas with my Sis in Tuscan (our first in over 20 years) we set out for San Antonio.

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… or so we thought. We headed toward San Antonio. We had campground reservations. We hadn’t’ been living in the RV for a year. We kind of stuffed things in and hit the road. We planned on using the “Just get to Texas and we’ll call you when we have something” time to organize, stock up on groceries, water etc..

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We drove 755 miles and stopped the second night in Junction, Texas where we dropped the U Haul (on purpose). 😉

I forgot to mention we’d given the Saturn to my son,  bought a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 200,000 miles on it while visiting Heidi’s son in MN.

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We were told we couldn’t tow the Jeep, so we rented a U-Haul ramp thing and pulled it through the mountains. $900 later, we dropped it in Junction at a U-Haul spot

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We got an early start, heading for San Antonio to begin the wait. I hopped in the Jeep and we drove the last stretch of our trip separately – sort of…

Heidi wrote about that day so I’ll link to her post instead of rehashing it all: Car 54… Where Are You?

To summarize:

  • Heidi and Henry took off in the Class A down Interstate 10
  • I followed in the Jeep
  • 57 miles later, we pulled over to check directions to the RV park
  • Heidi and Henry took off in the Class A
  • I didn’t follow in the Jeep
  • Eventually Heidi noticed
  • The Jeep battery was dead
  • Heidi called 911
  • We didn’t know where we were so they couldn’t find us
  • I walked a quarter-mile to find a mile marker
  • It began raining –
  • The guarding company called while H was talking to the 911 operator
  • Heidi called Jamie back while waiting for the police
  • We had a job that day IF we could get to Tilden before dark
  • A police officer found us and jumped the jeep
  • He told us to follow him to an auto parts store
  • He raced off across the grassy median
  • We didn’t have time to get Henry
  • We left Henry locked in the RV on Interstate 10
  • We got a new battery in Kerrville
  • We got lost trying to get back to Henry and the RV
  • We found Henry and the RV
  • We took the VERY bumpy “short cut” the auto parts folks suggested
  • We didn’t have any food or water
  • We left Henry in the RV in a church parking lot in Jordanton
  • We went to Pleasanton in search of supplies
  • We left Walmart and went the wrong way
  • We lost Jordanton altogether
  • We lost Henry and the RV for the 2nd time that day
  • We found the RV and Henry
  • We called Jamie for directions
  • We lost the phone signal
  • We found our 1st gate,outside Tilden, in ankle-deep mud in the rain
  • We had a 20 minute set up/training session
  • The training was: Here’s the clipboard, wear your vests, do what I did
  • We had no phone and no internet
  • We had no water (J. didn’t set it up right and we didn’t know how yet)
  • We had no septic (that would come a couple of days later)
  • We had no clue what we were doing… or why 😀

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And there you have it. We now think of things in terms of  LBT – Life Before Texas and LIT – Life In Texas. We’ve been living LIT for a year and a half now.

But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. ~ J.R.R> Tolkien

There (But Not) Back Again

He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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And that’s just about what happened next (picking up from where I left off last time). We came to another Fork, we stepped into the Road, and we could never have guessed where we were about to be swept off to!

I thought we had the ideal situation. We had a 2 bedroom apartment on the resort property in exchange for being the night managers. That meant we were on call every night from whenever the office closed (8 in the off-season, 10 in season) until it opened the next morning between 7 and 8. As Guest Services Manger (me) and Assistant Manager (Heidi) we both worked full time but had 2 days a week off (although we were on still on call every night).

We pulled the slides in and parked the RV behind an empty building at the resort.

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I sort of expected to be doing this for years. We loved the area. We joined a wonderful little church. We liked our boss. We worked well with the staff. And we had a steady income. If we weren’t working, we were on the beach.

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Henry became the resident celebrity. He was even the ring bearer – off leash, no kidding –  for a couple who got married barefoot on the beach, just like in a movie. 😀

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But the fame was fleeting. Tourist season ended and Heidi’s hours got cut from 40 to 7 per week. The proverbial writing was on the wall, or at least in the checkbook.

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When Heidi began having chest pains, I knew we had to start looking at other options. We were sinking, just like the Mary D Hume.

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During our time at the resort, Heidi and I had done the majority of the hiring and firing.  Well, I didn’t actually do any firing, but I did participate in the hiring! 😀

One woman I’d hired to work the front desk on weekends left mid-summer to take another job. She and her husband were also workamping at the same private RV park Heidi and I had started out in. They ran into the same things there that we’d encountered, only they chose to leave mid-stint.

I called Joanie one late afternoon in October to see how they were doing. They were working as gate guards on a ranch in Texas. She really encouraged me to look into it. Jumping ahead – this is during a visit. She and John subbed for 5 days last month on the same ranch we were on in Cuero! Small world!

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I’d read about gate guarding in the Workamping magazine and it didn’t sound too appealing, to be honest. But at this point, I was past appealing slipping into better just take anything that’s honest and pays. We were making payments on an RV we weren’t living in. We were already working or on call almost 24 hours a day. With Heidi’s hours slashed, we had a diminishing bank account and she was having stress induced chest pains.

We called the Gate Guard Services office in Corpus. They sent a packet. We decided to follow through. Back then, you did everything from wherever you were. We went to the county jail in town and got our fingerprinting done. We did our best on the Level II Security test and waited.

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Like many who are considering gate guarding, we searched for all the information we could find. Two years ago, we couldn’t find much. We did find Kit and Jerry’s blog. Unlike my rambling stories, Kit writes more of a daily diary. Reading Kit’s blog and talking to Joanie gave us some idea of what we might be getting into.

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The Fork in the road seemed to be pointing south. We called the company after 2 or 3 weeks and were told we were approved. Then came the next wave. There was no guarantee of a job. Patty said just get to Texas and we’ll call you when we have something for you. Hmm… That’s not how I like to roll, but roll we did.

It was another gut wrenching time. We loved Gold Beach and had made many dear friends there. We were a long ways from There and Back Again.  We were so far that we knew if we cut our ties this time, there would be no going back (my apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien for using his lovely words in such a sloppy way).

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We talked. We prayed. We packed up.

We said many more tearful goodbyes and hit the highway once again. This time we headed for Texas. I was pretty sure I’d stepped in the Road and failed to keep my feet

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“Farewell,” they cried, “Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.”  ~ J. R.R. Tolkien

When Things Went South

Since we last talked, things including but not limited to us, have gone south. The actual origin of the phrase, going south is a little uncertain, although it’s universally understood as going bad. Here’s a summary of what I found @ wise Geek.com.

One idea is that when sales or the market numbers are good, they rise toward the top of a chart (North geographically), and when they’re bad when they flow toward the bottom (South). Another explanation, which is much more popular in the North than in the South, is that after the Civil War, the South seemed to be associated with losing. Now that I’m living in Texas, I don’t think I’ll use that one. 😀

The phrase is thought to have originated in England, sort of.  People didn’t say that things were going south, instead they referred to a worsening situation as going west. Possible explanations:

1. The sun sets in the west.

2. Stories of prisoners from London traditionally heading west to the gallows.

This didn’t work as well for Americans who were fond of saying Go west, young man! where the West was associated with a place to seek one’s fortune. Over time, going west became going south which is now used by all around the world, except not so much here in Texas. 😀

To pacify you true Southerners, no one says things are going north to indicate a great improvement in circumstances! Anyway, just before things went south, we spent 2 weeks in Whitsett, waiting for our plumb assignment. We continued to meet nice folks there. More newbies:

Linda and Bobbie (Jim and Jim missed the photo op)

We got a kick out of Mary and Darrel from Arizona. Such fun folks!

Finally, after 2 weeks, the gate we’d been waiting for opened up. Jamie said to be ready at 9 a.m. so of course we were ready at 7:30 (1st law of gate guarding, always be ready hours or days ahead of when you expect to move). Mark was there to move us at 8:00.

Heidi and Mark setting up our ‘permanent digs’

The oil company was Murphy (nice folks by the way). The gate was expected to be easy. It was our first non-24 hour gate. Open it at 6 a.m. and close it at 8 p.m. according to Wayne and Barbara (the folks we replaced). It seemed so right, but right away, went so wrong!

They’re building a plant so the job security was great. It looked like a place we could stay for a year or two. The scenery wasn’t much, but gate guards are used to that.

After 14 months in this business, we’re considered seasoned gate guards. Not experts, just seasoned.  But this time, we made some first-timer errors. The fact that the same couple had been at the gate for 4 months and that our FS had phone service gave us a false sense of security. We didn’t want to spend the money to drive 100 miles to check the gate. Big mistake.

Mark got us set up and drove off. We got out our computers. No internet. We have both Verizon and AT&T internet cards and a Wilson booster… nada.

Heidi made a call to AT&T on her phone. They said we were way too far from any towers (and that the internet and the phone towers are separate).  The call was apparently a fluke, because we couldn’t call out again from the RV – to anyone.

I closed the gate at 8 as instructed only to have guys coming and going until after 11. I stayed up until at least midnight every night and slept like you do when you have a newborn – half way awake, listening for the bell. The padlock was terminally jammed so it was kind of, sort of locked. Heidi got up at 5, which was good since we had people on site by 5:15.

The second day, neither phone worked. My phone found this to be so discouraging that it simply quit altogether and it’s bits faded from view until none could be found. It’s now in the AT&T recycle center.

After 5 trips to Fowlerton (pop. 62) to call the office, we finally got a hold of Jamie and asked for a replacement. 50 miles from a grocery store or Walmart was fine; but 50 miles from a cell tower, not so much. We couldn’t even call 911. That was on Monday.

Jamie said he’d have someone there Tuesday unless we could wait until Wednesday. No problem. Tuesday, Larry came by to say they could have someone there at noon on Thursday. No problem, although I was starting to feel like we were playing out a cheeseburger scene between Popeye and Wimpy.

The traffic from 97 was non-stop and so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other, which made Henry VIII think we were yelling, so he threw-up in his bed. Hmm…

Henry in his post-crisis mode

You know the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yep. It was. Wednesday evening, we looked out the window at the ditch to see a river running through it. The liquid (something – never quite sure what since it was bubbling) was racing toward the RV.

Pre-flood photo

It was too dark to take a picture by the time we finished trying to build a little rock dam to stop the flood. Heidi drove into Fowlerton to call the only number we had for someone associated with the rig, since the CM wasn’t on site.

A really nice guy came out, crawled around in the dark and found a partially open valve of the something… and stopped the flow about 20 feet from the RV.

We were told to be ready to switch out the gate at noon on Thursday. We hitched up, just past dawn, in the drizzle in 3 minutes! Heidi says she’ll never time it again, since she doesn’t want the pressure to do it any faster. 😀

We had just turned around and pulled out of the spot at 7:30 when the new gate guards arrived. Larry was there by 8:30, and by the time we were have supposed to be ready to leave at noon,  we were already set up in a little RV park south of Seguin.

The 3 hour trip was uneventful, except that we apparently were the target of a random tire-stone- toss. We were already waiting to see if  the RV shop in Houston could move our repairs (from my palm tree tango) up a week or so. Of course, now they have to see how long it will take Coachman to ship out the window from Indiana. 🙂

Otherwise, all is well. We’ll use the time off to tackle taxes. Don’t ask. We don’t know anything yet. We’re talking to a CPA to help us out this year. I may continue to write here at Fork, but since we’re not on a gate, I’ll be writing about rather random topics. If you only read here for gate guard info, please check the side bar for other gate guard blogs. 😀

And the Winner is…

I enjoy all aspects of it, I don’t have a preference for any medium. I think each of them has its attractions and I would hope they each inform the other in some way. ~ Cillian Murphy
Clearly, this quote is taken entirely out of context. I don’t know what the context was, but I’m guessing he was talking about acting roles and not RVs.
Still, it does seem to largely come down to preferences and perspective, doesn’t it?
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Thank you to all you who voted in the : Your RV of Choice for Full-timing poll.
Final results were: 5th Wheel 0 53.13%  and Motorhome 46.88%.  I don’t quite get these percentages since they equal 100.01%, but I’m sure you math folks do.
I’ll try to summarize the pluses and minuses (the ones I understood)
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+ Plus for a 5th wheel
No engine worries (or at least only one, not two engines to worry about)
More interior room
Feels more like ‘an apartment’ and less like a ‘bus’
Doesn’t look like Dumbo, ready to take flight
Easier to gas up the truck than pull all the way through w/ a motorhome
Easy to tow
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– Minus for a 5th wheel
Hard to back up
Hard to park in tight spaces
Hard to tow – too much weight for truck
Hard to unhitch and hitch up for quick departures
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I guess it does look a little like Dumbo...

+Plus for a Motorhome
No need to stop for a restroom or sandwich break
Easy to tow car behind
Easy to move
Easy to park
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– Minus for a Motorhome
Engine worries
Feels like a bus ‘with wings’
Bad gas mileage
Less livable space with engine casing and rarely used captain seats
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In the end, most folks seemed to be happy with whichever they own; although there were several of you that would choose the other option, now that you’ve been full-timing for a while.
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Thank you.
As always, I appreciate and value your input! You know what they say:
Home is where the heart is.

Full-Timing It in an RV – What Would You Buy? Please Vote!

Growing up, almost all of our vacations were spent camping. Our first camper was a Cox fold down.

It was a lot like tent camping on stilts. When it rained you stayed away from the canvas or it would you’d wake up soaked.

I think this picture was taken at Turkey Run State Park in southern Indiana. By the time I was 16, we’d been to every state but Alaska and Hawaii. That was such a gift and grand adventure. I got the traveling bug, young.

I was born in Middlebury, Indiana (technically in Elkhart, since Middlebury didn’t have a hospital). Many of you seasoned RVers know that area as the Camper/RV capital of the world, or at least it was when I was growing up in the 60’s.

Eventually, my folks traded the fold-down in for a travel trailer. It kept us dry when it rained and had a tiny  kitchen area. My Mom was a Home Ec teacher, so the little bit of kitchen was bliss for her. I can’t remember how long it was – maybe 12 feet?

Today, I have a camper’s heart but an RVers body. I still love a campfire. Well, obviously, not here where it’s way too hot and a stray spark could ignite the whole state. But when I not working as a gate guard in southern Texas, sitting around a campfire at night is one of my favorite things.

I love to cook over the fire and sit out under the stars. Then, I like to come inside to running water and a bed that doesn’t hurt my back.

Dad, I'm the short one with no bangs, and my Sis

I remember, when I was little, passing Winnebagos and thinking how incredible it would be to be able to walk around and do whatever you wanted while rolling down the highway!

Those of you with Motorhomes are smiling now because as you know, while yes, you can get up and use the restroom or fix a sandwich, you are still walking in a moving, bumping vehicle.

When the time came to buy an RV, I did remarkably little research. Heidi had a Saturn, which was a perfect tow car. I headed straight for the Class A’s. (Heidi had Winnebago envy as a child, too!)

32 foot '07 Mirada

Right now we’re contemplating making a change. I would love to hear from all you RVers about what you bought/or would buy and why?

I began a discussion about this with Dave who is thinking of changing from a 5th wheel to a motorhome.

I’m thinking of going the other direction.

You can see Dave’s comment at: Joe Series – More Pros and Cons

I would love to know more about your experiences. What you see as the pro and cons of a motorhome vs a 5th wheel and any other thoughts on the topic. As always, thank you for reading and thanks for participating.

Road Rules

Debbie and I started taking our seminars on the road before GPS was as reliable as it is now. We both love traveling but share equally in our struggle with maps. When we were in the green Camry tooling across the Midwest on the way from one small state to the another, we frequently would be lost. It took more than one trip around St Paul and Minneapolis to realize I’d never understand the highway signs. I also never was really able to understand how to correlate the maps with the road signs satisfactorily. There’s the key, I’m told.

That meant we stopped a lot. Talking worked a lot better for us than mapping ever did. We were communications trainers, after all, not schematics scholars. We slowly developed a method for arriving at our sessions without being too stressed.

Rule # 1: Never hesitate to ask for directions. Being women, we didn’t have any qualms or arguments about asking for help. Usually I would give up before Debbie did. I feel so out of control when I don’t know where I’m going. Getting nowhere fast doesn’t make me feel any better. Frankly, when I insisted on stopping and Debbie wasn’t uncomfortable yet with waiting to see if our destination was around the next turn, she was usually right. We called it my Almost There Syndrome. Usually it was only a block or two away.

Rule # 2: Enjoy the journey. We stopped to shop, eat and enjoy the local color. You know how some people want to get into the seat, buckle down and only stop for gas? Not us. Sometimes we would meander down side roads and get turned around and head out-of-town the wrong way. One time we realized were going into the wrong town right about when we were due to arrive for class 60 miles the other way. That was the only time we ever were late for a presentation. That led to the third rule.

Rule # 3: Always arrive a day early. We’ve driven in fog, white-outs, blizzards, tornado watches and flood warnings. We’ve had flat tires, run out of gas, had billfolds stolen, left purses in cafes, department stores and restrooms. The only solution for us was to be sure we were ahead of time so that there was less chance of not making it due to circumstances.

Nowadays, with the RV, we stick to the same rules, except that we don’t stop very often because—well you know, it’s hard to park an RV and just jump out to get directions! We plot our trips the night before, or Debbie uses the computer to map us as we go.

We use the air card and a laptop to chart our course. I see no need to struggle with paper directions in the form of maps.

She bought a Texas map when we arrived. Makes me cringe to look at it.